Dr. Schlager To Offer Course in Nicaragua

Local women working on a solar cooker with a student group.

Mechanical Engineering professor Lynn Schlager will be leading a short-term study abroad course entitled “Renewable Energy in Nicaragua” during spring break of 2014. While the focus of the course will be on the application of renewable energy technologies in an underdeveloped country, students will also be learning about the culture and history of Nicaragua, development efforts and barriers to development and issues relating to sustainability in the areas of agriculture, forestry, solid waste management, etc. The course is an approved elective for both the minor in Renewable Energy and the minor in Social and Environmental Justice.

Nicaragua is a country of just over 6 million inhabitants with an area about the size of New York State. It is located in Central America between Honduras and Costa Rica with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The majority of the course will take place in the community of Sabana Grande, located in the northern highlands about 40 km south of the Honduran border on the Pan American Highway. It is a poor, rural area in a very poor country (Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, just ahead of Haiti) with very little public infrastructure: no municipal water or sewer and very limited electric grid access. One element of the course is service learning and students will not only gain hands-on experience with renewable technologies, they will also be contributing to the community by installing a photo-voltaic system in a home that is currently without electricity and building one or two solar-thermal cookers for use by a family in the community. They will also get an intimate glimpse of everyday life by living with local families and sharing their lifestyle: hauling water from a well, using pit toilets and showering with a bucket of unheated water.

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