Lighting- up an Upland Rural Community in the Philippines
Pico Hydro- electric Plant Installation: An ASME Mapua Student Section Project By Manuel C. Belino
The performance of universities in the twenty-first century will be judged based on three areas or the so-called function or mission, namely: teaching, research and service. While most colleges and universities give emphasis to teaching or research, only a few give similar importance to service, in particular, community or extension service. No other time in history requires a closer connection between what goes on in the academe and the practical problems that beset society. One dean from one of the schools of a prestigious university in the United States remarks: “The university must be a socially responsible institution, seeking to move beyond the ‘ivory tower’ in order to address some of the pressing social and political problems.” Engineering schools in developing countries could better fulfil their service mission if the resources and efforts of the senior students doing research projects as a requirement for graduation could be utilized to do some countryside development projects that involve basic engineering principles and fundamentals of engineering design.
Early on, the founder of the Mapua Institute of Technology Don Tomas Mapua, an architecture graduate of Cornell University, envisioned an educational institution that would emphasize the importance of science and technology and create an impact on the community and the quality of life of the Filipinos. The legacy of Don Tomas continues as the Institute’s mission embodies it stated as follows: “…the Institute engages in research with high socio-economic impact … and brings to bear humanity’s vast store of knowledge on the problems of industry and community in order to make the Philippines and the world a better place” (emphasis added). Similarly, the vision-mission of the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (SMME) puts equal importance to community or extension service as follows: “… undertake community extension projects that uplift the living conditions of the poor and preserve the environment … “To actualize both the Institute and the School mission, the Office of Social Orientation and Community Involvement Program (SOCIP) directs the extension service activities of the institution. Each school or department renders extension services related to the program or field of expertise which are participated in by the administration, faculty, support staff and students. The SMME has identified three extension service projects such as the Adopt-an-Engineering-School (an outreach project to a rural public college offering mechanical engineering which involves faculty and student development seminars/workshops/trainings, sharing of Mapua’s laboratory facilities, book donation, and assistance to students for their industry internship); welding training program for the out-of-school youth in urban Manila (a program that equips poor young people with employable skills); and, installation of small scale renewable energy power plant such as micro-wind and micro/pico-hydro-electric plant in the countryside. The latter is the topic for discussion in this article.
Micro/pico-hydro-electric plants produce power from streams and small rivers. Micro-hydro could bring electricity to remote communities for the first time for lighting and providing power for small appliances such as radio and television. This kind of power plant is already benefiting many remote areas in the Philippines and other developing countries.
The electrical power from micro/pico-hydro is sufficient to run small machines for rice milling and could even support small businesses. The main environmental benefit of micro/pico-hydro is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution from fossil fuels. This includes kerosene for lighting, diesel for driving machinery, and diesel and other fossil fuels for generating electricity.
The pico-hydroelectric power plant installed by the SMME in Northern Luzon, Philippines provides 3 kW of power to the indigenous community of Barangay Talite in Aguinaldo, Ifugao. Barangay Talite consists of several sitios (zones). The sitio involved in this project is Sitio Henalong. Most of the civil structures were installed in Sitio Henalong such as the powerhouse, forebay, penstock, headrace and tailrace. Sitio Henalong consists of 15 households. Please see location map below.
The community provided manpower for the construction of most of the civil works such as the rip-raping of the forebay, head race and tailrace. They also provided local materials such as wood and bamboo for the electrical posts and were responsible for the clearing and preparation of the roads that were used by the Mapua team in installing the main electrical lines. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers – Mapua Student Section through the ASME Diversity Action Grant in cooperation with the Mapua Institute of Technology's SMME extension service team undertook this project.` The faculty and students involved in the project were: Dr. Manuel C. Belino (Dean/Faculty Advisor), Engr. Mark Anthony D. Balberona (Extension Service Coordinator), Engr. Jose Artemon M. Luna (Faculty), Engr. Ferdinand T. Galera (Faculty), Karl T. Lucena (Student), Aaron Ace G. Silvano (Student), Ron Erwin Mendoza (Student), Ernest L. Chan (Student), Albert Janwin C. Cudal (Student).
Currently, the power plant provides 25 – 35 W to each of the 15 households of Sitio Henalong. Each household is given 2 to 3 units of CFL lamps with a rating of 11 watts each. In the future, this project will be extended to Sitio Gabot which consists of 12 households.
Through this project, the student volunteers were able to apply the knowledge they have acquired in the course of their study to a practical project; to have a deeper understanding of the extent of the social, economic and political problems of the locality and the country as a whole; to have a heightened awareness of the extent of environmental problems in the countryside; and, to have an opportunity to help in the upliftment of the standard of living of the poor and in the preservation of the environment.
Some of the insights and learning’s of the faculty and student volunteers are captured in their remarks:
“Although the project that we did in Ifugao was very basic engineering as compared to what we are learning in the classroom, its social impact was very evident as it changed the daily life of the people in the community through the provisions of electricity, a basic need that we enjoy and yet taken for granted.”
“It made me feel great as an engineering student to see the joy in the eyes of the people in the community when they saw for the first time lighted bulbs in their households.”
” I appreciated more my chosen profession in the way that I could apply so far what I have learned in engineering to help people, more so, an indigenous community.
"I learned not only engineering stuff in this project but also the rich culture of the upland people in the Philippines.”
“It made the students realize how noble the engineering profession is through the accomplishment of such a relevant and meaningful extension service project which does not only improve the human condition but also uplifts the human spirit”.
As the SMME demonstrates social responsibility through extension service, students who undergo this kind of project would eventually become concerned and socially responsible engineers.