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Kenyan Students Win Prize for Solar Power Project


The team that applied for the prize and their mentors with other students on the assembly ground.

Editor's note: This story was written by a participant in the VOA Learning English online course, "Writing Science in Plain English" at the American Resource Center in the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. A writing contest followed the online course. His winning story, A Loyalty Program to Save Mother and Child was the first place winner. This new story tells about a happy event for science students at his school.

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

A group of students from Kenya was among winners of the 2017 Zayed Future Energy Prize.

The 10-member team is receiving a $100,000 award to make their school a “green energy” institution.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize winners were recognized at a ceremony in January in Abu Dhabi. The prize is named after the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The Zayed Award Winners of 2017. Riziki Mwaka in red, black and blue representing Starehe Girls.
The Zayed Award Winners of 2017. Riziki Mwaka in red, black and blue representing Starehe Girls.

The award is presented every year through a competitive process. It goes to organizations or individuals with new ideas about renewable energy to help in efforts against global warming.

Scientists have evidence that temperatures in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are slowly rising. They blame the temperature increase on pollution from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Over the past 100 years, the Earth’s atmospheric temperature has risen by between 0.4 and 0.8 degrees Celsius. The United States government says last year was the warmest year on record. “The 2016 globally averaged surface temperature ended as the highest since record-keeping began in 1880,” U.S. scientists reported.

The Kenyan students were recognized for their plan to improve the Starehe Girls’ Centre and School, a secondary school about 20 kilometers north of Nairobi.

The students say they will use some of the prize money to create a 25-kilowatt embedded solar carport. Under their proposal, the school would set up solar equipment to collect energy from the sun. The system is expected to reduce the school’s dependence of electric power centers by 20%, or $1,100 a month.

Planned 25-kilowatt embedded solar carport for Starehe Girls Centre
Planned 25-kilowatt embedded solar carport for Starehe Girls Centre

Jane Soita is the Starehe school's director. She noted: “It costs $850 per girl in Starehe Girls Centre. Through this project, savings in electricity will enable us to support 10 more needy girls per year.”

The students' plan includes 10 solar-power street lights and 4 solar water heaters. The heaters will give the girls a chance to wash with warm water. The hot water system will also serve the school's food service area and medical center.

The Kenyan team competed in designing and modeling a solar powered car at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi. The car’s solar panel creates electricity from sunlight. The students tested their vehicle in a race. It finished in fourth place out of 15 schools.

Solar Car designed and Assembled by Riziki Mwaka and Judy Wangoi at the Petroleum Institute.
Solar Car designed and Assembled by Riziki Mwaka and Judy Wangoi at the Petroleum Institute.

The team’s success has led to at least one offer of more money for the school. Kenya’s Ministry of Education, through the National Commission of Science and Innovation, promised an additional $20,000.

A representative of the Solar Sisters organization promised to partner with the school in empowering the girls on clean energy. Solar Sisters works with women interested in setting up solar energy businesses. The organization operates in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. But the project had an effect on the representative, who promised to extend Solar Sisters’ work to Kenya.

The Starehe Girls Centre sits on 55 hectares of land. Andrew Simolo is a project mentor and Geography teacher at the school. He notes that, “Fifty percent of the school is covered with a forest and a water reservoir. We believe ecosystems sustain life.”

The school administration and teachers believe in protecting the environment. They have a custom of asking every visitor at the school to plant a tree on the property.

The ideas suggested by the Kenyan students show their great potential.

“We are young ambassadors of change in the world through creative thinking and implementing a clean energy development project,” noted Wilkista Onyango. She is a Starehe Girls graduate and served as a project leader.

Young minds play an important role in leading others to developing technology. This will help to fight issues facing the world, such as climate change and sustainable energy.

I’m Jill Robbins.

John Njoroge and David Mwangi wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

This is a video of the school's proposal:

This is a news report after the students won the prize.

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Words in This Story

carport ­- n. a shelter for a car that has open sides and that is usually attached to the side of a building

sustain - adj. able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed

mentor - n. someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

innovation - n. a new idea, device, or method

implement - v. to make (something) active or effective

embedded – adj. to make something a part of

Has a school near you started any green energy programs? What are students in your area doing to make their school or town more sustainable? Write to us in the Comments Section.

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