Open House!

Come join us for our Open House tomorrow at 5pm in Kunkle Lounge!  You will hear all about our 2013 project, plans for the 2014 project, and enjoy Honduran food with us.  See you then!

 Flyer 4-23-2013

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Post-Trip Reflection Questions

RenewCrew Honduras 2013

Post-Trip Reflection Questions

1.      You’re back to State College! We shared some reflections during the trip and had some time between the trip and settling back into our routines. Having had the chance to hear yourself and others, as well as having this time to personally reflect on and digest your experience, what part of this experience do you feel made the biggest impression on you?

The thing that still sticks with me are the differences between lifestyles here in the States and those back in Roatan. Here, we have many modern amenities and comforts that we have become used to and take for granted. We go about our lives worrying about schedules, deadlines and the latest news across social media. In Roatan, many are still very much just trying to survive. Housing is still very simple, and basic utilities aren’t prevalent. It is odd to think of just how different the two lifestyles are. This dynamic also existed right on the island itself. It was crazy that a five-star resort with all the trimmings was on the same road as little shacks with tin roofs.

2.      What is the one thing that you feel you learned or noticed about yourself while you were in Roatan?

I was able to adapt surprisingly well. I have never been out of the States before this trip so I was unsure how the difference in lifestyle was going to affect me. I am sure being in a large group of my peers definitely helped, but I feel that I am capable of handling new situations and surroundings fairly well. I never felt overwhelmed or experienced “culture shock”.

3.      What insights into effective teamwork did you gain from this trip? How might these affect your future work in teams?

The team in Roatan never worked together. We all knew each other through class time but never did we have to pool our resources to accomplish something. Everyone was open to trying new things and was flexible; this allowed natural segregation of work so that many little parts could be accomplished at once. People also weren’t afraid to voice their opinions or questions, which allowed everyone to learn something and contribute. I feel that being flexible, and questioning are key to working as a team.

4.      How did Roatan’s culture play a role on your experience on the trip?

The culture of Roatan seemed to vary based on where you went. There were many familiar aspects and sights, such as Coca Cola branding and West Side, which made our stay feel almost as if we weren’t in another country. I didn’t feel any sort of culture shock, and didn’t quite feel like a stranger. All of this contributed to having an enjoyable experience.

5.      Did you experience anything on the trip that helps you to see your home culture differently?

Having seen so many wild cats and dogs was really weird since they are such a domesticated house pet back in the States. Even seeing one stray cat or dog around in the States can be odd. In Roatan, you’ll almost see packs of stray dogs on the streets and the locals walk around them as if it is a normal occurrence. Seeing the familiar Coca-Cola logo everywhere was also weird. I got the feeling of some dystopian future where corporations are the ones with power and not governments.

6.      How did your perception of Roatan change after your trip?

Never having been out of the country before, I was unsure what to expect. I almost felt like we would be visiting a resort location, and although some of it was like that, most was not. The island is still very much a developing nation. Some parts of it seem to be ahead of its time (the mess of overhead wiring), so it almost seems like it hasn’t yet found the right pace for itself. Some parts are very developed and others are the opposite.

7.      What do you see as the challenges of renewable energies both within the context of Roatan and within your home community?

In Roatan, renewable energy makes sense because the cost to burn oil is so high. There is a good solar resource and there may even be potential for wind energy. The challenges with it though are that it is hard to gather the resources and import materials to the island. Also, the average wealth of the community would not be able to support the installation of many arrays and would rely heavily on donations are charity work. Back home in the states, we have the wealth and infrastructure to have widespread installations of renewables but the cost of electricity is so low that many people don’t care enough to invest.

8.      What aspects of the following do you think would be important to document for others who may work on this project in the future?

-Culture: There are many English speakers, and the locals are used to seeing tourists so you never really feel like a stranger.

-Teamwork: Be prepared to be assigned tasks but also be willing to assign tasks. Everyone must be flexible and maintain an open-mind. Don’t be afraid to voice questions or opinions.

-Renewable Energy: Every little bit counts. Electricity is so expensive that even if an array is not in an ideal spot, the energy it produces will have significant impacts on the community.


9.      How has this experience shifted your thoughts on both being a citizen in your home community and in your occupational aspirations?

I’m certainly a little more appreciative of everything that I have here. We joke about moving to Roatan and setting up a solar installation company, but really that might be an option somewhere down the line. Many places exist like Roatan where there is a great potential for change and it just requires the right push and initiative. Having the chance to set up a solar array gave me some great hands-on experience that supplemented well with what I am learning in class. I know feel a bit more confident in my endeavors and hope to continue in the solar industry.

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Reflecting on Renew Crew 2013

After spending a few weeks back in State College, I have had some time to really reflect on our time in Honduras and what it meant to myself and so many others.

I think this project had a much larger impact on me, my team, and the Roatan community than I thought that it would. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of such a dynamic group, where all of the members share a common goal. I feel privileged to have been able to learn from every person involved. Projects like these play a vital role in island communities such as Roatan; and also serve as an amazing learning experience for the people involved.

One of the most influential parts of the trip was being able to sit-in on the Island Friends forum and learn about how people from around the world who have completely invested their time and resources to help the Roatan community in a variety of ways. Because the island is so isolated it is difficult for them to acquire things that, in the United States, are completely taken for granted.

Upon coming back to the Penn State community, I have learned to appreciate simple things much more, and not take life too seriously. I think that sometimes we get wrapped up in our busy schedules and forget how lucky we are. We are able to easily access so many things that others fight for – water, energy, food – I think that this was such an eye-opening experience, that I will carry with me for a very long time. I have been inspired to give back more often, and hopefully be able to take on more of these types of projects in the future.

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Perception of Roatan

My perception of Roatan, Honduras is that it is unlike any other island that I’ve been too. The people there are very friendly and welcoming to visitors outside of the Caribbean. I enjoyed my stay on the island where I could learn about the community and engage in educating those interested in our stay there. I’ve even made some friends there that I am still in contact with. It gives me another reason to return to the island. I hope one day others will come to not just Roatan but other islands as well with the same mentality of helping those in need. They may not expect it at first but the reward is greater than anyone would expect and the benefits of being able to educate a community while learning about their lifestyle and culture beyond imaginable. I definitely enjoyed my tripped with these group of students who share the same passion as I do.

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Trip Reflection

Returning to State College after living in paradise for a week left a bitter and not so sweet taste in my mouth. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. It allowed me to utilize the skills and knowledge base I’ve been developing in school for a practical project that positively impacted the Roatan community. Aside from interacting with the wonderful children of the daycare and learning the steps of designing a proposed solar array from scratch, the simple day to day happenings of island life left the biggest impression on me. I am West Indian so the peacefulness of island life was not exactly new to me, but it has been several years since I’ve experienced the luxuries of island life. Such luxuries include picking a coconut directly from a coconut tree, chopping the coconut open with a machete, and drinking fresh coconut water, eating perfectly ripe mangoes grown right on the island, and waking up to the unique sounds and calls of a plethora of beautiful birds and animals. It felt as if Roatan’s culture, being so similar to my own, welcomed me with open arms.                                                                                                               The challenges of establishing renewable markets within the Latin American and Caribbean nations is indeed more complicated than it is in the US due to a trend of lack of supportive policy and funding; however, the high energy prices seen in many of these nations makes renewable alternatives extremely competitive if not a great deal cheaper in the long run. Before this experience I’ve thought about moving somewhere in the Caribbean or Latin America to assist in establishing a renewable energy industry for the countries in these regions. Following this experience I am sure I’ll be moving to a Caribbean or Latin American country within the next 15 years to help establish renewable energy industries.

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Teamwork Insights

There is so much to say about our incredible trip to Honduras. I know we all have a lot to reflect on, but today I just wanted to focus on some of the teamwork aspects of our project.

First, I wanted to share a story that we all joke about from time to time; it was our first example “group dynamics”: The first time we went to Vegas Electric (our second day in Honduras), we had some down time and the boys started debating about how the position and type of PV system affect the efficiency. The girls, on the other hand, wandered around and took pictures of flowers and of the scenery. We only find this funny because Lauren pointed it out right then, how the girls and boys like doing different things in their free time.

So we may not all have had the same level of interest in the technical side of solar energy, but perhaps diverse thinking and interests leads to more creative ideas and solutions. I think the best part about our group was that we were all different and had strengths in different areas. It’s up to us the group members to recognize our teammate’s strengths and let them lead when the time is right. Just think about all the tasks we had to accomplish! Design the racking, install the system, entertain the kids, paint the outside walkway, make the banner, create the Island Friends presentation, organize the zipline trip, ect. But looking back on it, I can think of a different person that took charge of each task, and I am so grateful that our team functioned so well together.

In the future, I think I will be more receptive to noticing other people’s strengths, and letting them take the lead. So often I feel that I have to do everything when I am the designated leader, but I realize that it’s okay to delegate tasks to teammates when they have strengths in areas that I do not.

I also learned from this experience that you don’t have to be exactly alike to become friends. In my classes I am always friends with other ChemEs, so we all have similar interests. But becoming a close-knit team with all these people from different ages and major on the trip was so easy; almost too easy!  I think that’s because we all had a common goal and an open mind, and we all really wanted to try our hardest to make our trip successful. It is nice to think that in my future endeavors, just being dedicated and passionate about the same task might be enough to bring us together.

I am so glad that I had this experience, and looking back, I won’t change a thing about my team. We worked great together, and I will always cherish my memories from Honduras.

~Kristen 🙂

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Looking to the future

I have done some more reflecting on how this trip has impacted me personally and professionally.

What part of experience had biggest impression on you?

Working with Jordan and Professor Riley on laying out the dimensioning of the pipes had a big impression on me. We were working at the first day in Vegas electric and we laid out all of our materials. The project felt intimidating. Sitting down at a table and drawing out all dimensions with Dr. Riley’s help felt really good. I felt just like a project engineer who was installing a solar panel on a building in the United States. To have this hands on experience working with peers, professors, and professionals is invaluable to me.

How did your perception of Roatan change after your trip?

I initially perceived Roatan to be similar to the Dominican Republic, which I have visited. I was partially correct because the similar in that they are both islands that rely heavily on tourism. I think my perception changed after we went to the Friends of the Island meeting and seeing the number of nonnative community groups living there to help the island.

What do you see as the challenges of renewable energies both within the context of Roatan and within your home community?

I think that renewable energy is a powerful tool that should be used more often. It is hard for people to pay the upfront costs because it is truly an investment to buy a solar array. I think that if engineers could cut down on cost of building a solar array, then more buildings would have them installed. In Roatan, I think the biggest challenge is solar policy. The battles between local governments, electrical companies, and project groups like the Renew Crew make implementation of solar projects to be slow. At home, I think that ideas that solar panels cost and lack of sunlight deter people from investing. When we learned about Germany and their solar energy policies in class it was really eye opening how solar could be used as a useful tool.

What aspects of the following do you think would be important to document for others who may work on this project in the future?

I think it is important to document the layout of all the materials and method in which the team begins to organize the racking system. It is important to have this documented so that other groups can see what types of responsibilities go into the design and building of the array.

How has this experience shifted your thoughts on both being a citizen in your home community and in your occupational aspirations?

I am a member of Engineers Without Borders and Project Manager for the Domestic Project for Engineers Without Borders. This experience has inspired me to work with other members of the Renew Crew to build a solar array for a Penn State building on campus. I think we will be able to impact the community by encouraging solar usage and making a building more efficient. In the long term, I could see myself as a project engineer working for a construction company and partnering with electrical contractors.

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