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Solar Energy International (SEI) Developing World Online Course RDOL101 - Interview with Chris Brooks

Posted by: chris
February 7, 2014
We had a chance to catch up with Chris Brooks, RDOL101 Online Instructor for Solar Energy International (SEI), to talk with him about this fantastic course covering developing world and appropriate technology topics. More info about RDOL101: Appropriate Technology in the Developing World - next session starts April 1, 2014>>

Thank you Chris for spending some time with us to discuss this online course offered through SEI's Online Campus.

Chris Brooks: Thanks for having me. 

Who are the typical students who register for RDOL101?

Chris Brooks: Many of the  students who take RD101 have some experience working in the developing world, others just have interest and ambition.  Often, we have online students from all over the world which adds interesting perspectives as they share their thoughts and experiences in our discussion forums. 

There was as recent name change for this course - what was the reasoning behind this change?

Chris Brooks: We have recently changed the name of the class to "Appropriate Technology in the Developing World" because we focus not just on renewable energy technology transfer, but other technologies that are typically used in development projects to improve the quality of people's lives and help eliminate poverty. 

What is the structure of this course and what are the topics covered?

Chris Brooks: The class is divided into two sections.  The first section deals specifically with technologies that aim to improve people's access to basic human needs:  we start with an examination of water and sanitation issues and focus our discussions on water sources, pumping technologies, filtration and purification technologies and sanitation issues such as improved latrines and composting toilets.  In the following sections we examine food processing and cooking technologies, biomass, rural electrification (solar, wind and micro-hydro -- centralized and decentralized systems).   We also have sections dealing with appropriate building technologies and biomass systems.  The second section of the class focuses on project development and implementation.  We explore  project funding options and innovative financing schemes that can be employed in communities.  We discuss techniques for successfully working with partners and communities and touch on gender issues, capacity building programs and the development of micro-enterprises.  

 What types of learning materials and online community building opportunities are there in this course?

Chris Brooks: The class format is a mixture of ppt presentations, short videos,  and reading material.  Each lesson contains a number of additional resources for your interest and a recommended  exercise for  practicing and applying your knowledge.  Your final grade will be calculated by your performance on quizzes, forum discussion assignments and possibly a final project.

So do I need to be an expert in renewable energy in order to be successful in this course?

Chris Brooks: RD101 is intended to be an introductory class.  We do not dive too deeply into the technologies but offer an introductory overview so students are aware of the possibilities.   If you are interested primarily in PV systems and rural electrification or if you are interested more in the specifics of designing and installing battery based PV systems, I would recommend one of SEI's fantastic classes on batteries or battery based systems.  If you are open to looking at a number of technologies and methods for implementing them in developing communities this is the class for you!

About Chris Brooks
Chris has a Masters of Science degree in Renewable Energy from Murdoch University.  His interest in renewable energy was sparked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador and he continues to pursue solar energy as an enabling technology for sustainable, rural development.  Chris has worked on the design, installation and training programs for solar  projects in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and throughout the Americas.  He is a NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer who lives and installs solar in the ‘sunny’ Puget Sound region of Washington State.


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