Isle of Man students learn how solar can help people adapt to climate change

19.02.2019 Climate changeEducationEnergy

Farmer in Zimbabwe shows her crops which are flourishing thanks to solar powered irrigation

Practical Action have launched a brand new challenge aimed at Isle of Man students which is designed to show how solar energy can transform the lives of African farmers. Running alongside it is a design competition which could earn the winning school £100 worth of STEM kit.

International development group Practical Action have launched a brand new challenge aimed at Isle of Man students aged 8-14 years. The challenge shows how solar can transform the lives of African farmers. Running alongside it is a design competition which could earn the winning school £100 worth of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) kit.

The Solar Challenge aims to help students understand the problems faced by people living in rural Zimbabwe, where families are living with the effects of climate change and without access to energy. The challenge has been created as part of a project funded by the Isle of Man Government, which will support the economic empowerment of women smallholder farmers in Southern Africa, through access to renewable energy.

The competition builds on the Solar Challenge and challenges pupils to develop a solar powered solution to a problem facing communities in Zimbabwe. Whether it’s finding a way of ensuring vaccinations are refrigerated or helping farmers to pump water to irrigate their crops, students will be able to demonstrate the life-changing potential of electricity.

In the Gwanda and Matobo districts of Zimbabwe, as many as a quarter of households face the threat of hunger. This is due to the failure of their crops caused by drought and flash flooding – both effects of climate change.Practical Action aims to helpfarming families improve their harvests through the organisation’s innovative approach that combines improved seeds, skills training and solar-powered irrigation pumps. Additional income earned from their land will lift the families out of poverty for good.

The classroom-based challenge sees students investigate how to make different circuits connect to solar cells, develop an understanding of the different electricity needs of people in rural Zimbabwe and make decisions on how a fixed amount of solar cells should be allocated based on needs.

Bren Hellier from Practical Action’s Education team said: “The Solar Challenge is a great way for students to understand the needs of communities like those in rural Zimbabwe and how a combination of clever solutions can enable them to change their lives.

“We’re really excited about launching this challenge on the Isle of Man and urge all teachers to get involved. We’re also running an exciting design competition until June 2019 where schools can win £100 worth of STEM kit from TTS, each pupil in the winning team will also receive a £10 voucher and STEM book.”

All the teaching materials needed to run the Solar Challenge are free to download from the Practical Action website. Practical Action is also making available a STEM solar cell kit for use in the challenge. This can be borrowed locally through the One World Centre at St Johns (tel: 800464 or email info@owciom.org).

The solar challenge resources can be downloaded here: https://practicalaction.org/solar-challenge-isle-of-man.

Further information about the design competition can be found here: https://practicalaction.org/solar-challenge-off-grid-isle-of-man