DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Site Visit to The Gambia 2017 (23 May – 6 June)


I. Mentor UTG Physics Student working on Social Enterprise Projects with Etown

I (Kurt DeGoede) met with Dr. Momodou Jain, Deputy Vice Chancellor of UTG, and approximately 12 physics students. Four students were clearly the leaders among the students: Assan Jeng-Project Manager, Emanuel Hassan-Materials Manager, Maimuna Drammeh-Finance Manager, and Lamin Saidy Khan-Sales Manager; supervised by Dr. Momodou Jain and Ebrima Darboe-Graduate Assistant.


We discussed the phone charger project. The students confirmed reported product failures as soldering problems. Defective units will be repaired as needed.  Discussed market changes. Low cost Chinese imports were now widely available in most locations. In addition, few Gambians still used basic Nokia phones, now quite hard to obtain. I reassured the students that they could pivot to new opportunities using the PV charger materials. They did decide to distribute the 100 assembled phones during the upcoming UTG nationwide tour. They felt that in the provinces demand might still exist for these sort of chargers.  They will likely sell them at a lower price, but all proceeds will fund future projects.


I also reminded the students that the goal was to increase access to sustainable low cost phone charging. If that has been achieved, we have succeeded. In the process, the students have successfully navigated starting up a business. They are considering stringing together multiple modules to create larger arrays for more advanced applications. They also will be using the waste cells I brought previously (2015) to fabricate larger arrays. These waste cells are those rejected by PV manufacturers, but still functional at typically 90+% capacity. If they can demonstrate an effective use of these cells, manufacturers may be willing to supply cells at little to no cost.


Finally, I brought supplies to conduct a yearlong research study. Four small (10W) PV modules will be installed at 3 UTG campus locations: Serrekunda (costal-urban), Brikama (inland with heavy traffic), and Faraba (further inland much lower traffic). One location will have two installed modules. Over the year, teams of UTG students (led by 4 listed above) will regularly record Voc (open circuit voltage) and Isc (short circuit current), along with irradiance measured with the provided meter. Modules will be allowed to become soiled, parallel to most modules installed in The Gambia. The data will indicate the nature of power loss due to soiling in various regions. Will also log irradiance patterns in the nation. At site with 2 modules, one will be cleaned whenever performance drops below 85% (or an alternative pre-set level) rated levels. This research will likely provide a publication opportunity for these students. Very little research has been conducted on effect of long term soiling of modules.  In most developed nations, regular rain tends to mitigate this concern.  Soiling characteristics will likely vary regionally; this will be the first published study of these effects in sub-Saharan Africa. 


II. MEHDA guesthouse improvements

For all 4 EGR Gambia trips, we have partnered with MEHDA to provide low cost housing for our teams in Pirang village. As an investment in future trips, we provided 12V DC ceiling fans for the two primary guest rooms and a new 12V DC water pump. In the previous visit, I purchased new deep cycle PV batteries (300 Ah total). These Gifts-In-Kind have been used as full or partial payment for housing, or in some cases (PV batteries) as personal gifts.  Since 2015, MEHDA has upgraded wiring and replaced all lighting with DC LED. The PV system was working beautifully. The 2 fans were installed in the guest rooms during the stay.  The water pump will be installed in the near future.  Several repairs have been made to the 10-year-old pump currently installed, and the next time it needs repair the new replacement pump will replace the old pump.  Finally, new seal kit for ceramic water filter addressed a problem with that unit. I will being replacement filter elements on next trip.

From Jon Rudy’s trip report:

Lodging at MEHDA is an important way for visitors to get to know Gambia from the village level. It is an especially good experience for students who have never imagined the way in which many people in Gambia, West Africa and/or any in the developing world live. Nyamo, a local resident and caretaker at MEHDA is mentoring a younger Alieu not only into the care and feeding of foreigners but into knowing the local avifauna, a crucial part of preserving eco-diversity and developing the eco-tourism potential in Gambia.

















III. UTG-Etown Virtual exchanges between students

Jon Rudy and I are working to establish virtual exchanges between students in our classes at Elizabethtown College and students at the University of Gambia.

From Jon Rudy’s Report:

We met the faculty from the department of the arts and sciences at the University of The Gambia (UTG). They are keen on international connections and so the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Professor Pierre Gomez gave a warm welcome to our visit and blessed further connections with the faculty. I will work with Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, professor of International Relations. UTG is starting a Masters in International Relations in September. Dr. Gomez invited me to spend any amount of time teaching short courses saying they had the flexibility to incorporate any amount of time I might give toward teaching there. We met the very important University Relations Officer, Mr. Abdoulie Sillah, who is the person that makes things happen there in terms of international visits and liaison with the rest of the university. 

We also met with the UTG ITS personnel who oversee the webinar and computer rooms on multiple campuses. They have years of experience connecting classrooms on a regular basis. The technology is in place, student enthusiasm is high and the only uncertainty are power cuts, which can disrupt a session.


The potential of this location for Elizabethtown College students cannot be understated. It behooves the college to continue to build on Kurt’s connections and the concept of virtual connections is one way to entice students to want to travel to Gambia. We come away excited about the possibility of developing a pilot person/classroom virtual exchange. I will be setting up a conversation with PCS and Poly Sci students in the fall while Kurt will look at an engineering student exchange.


Collection of Poetry relating to recent democratic revolution in The Gambia (http://standard.gm/site/2017/03/14/long-road-democracy-gambia-edited-prof-pierre-gomez/)  







I will work with UTG Physics students to set a regular conference time between EGR 49X and them. Find day and schedule for 10:00 EDT (14:00 GMT/09:00EST), +/- 1 hour. Start with guided introductions and guided conversation about navigating political discussion in context of polarization in each nation. Then meet each week to discuss projects for 30-60 minutes. 


Jon and I will then work to create a similar session linking Peace and Conflict studies students to Dr. Ceesay’s UTG students. 


III. EGR49X Site Visit

The student 49X Team sent me with several questions to address:

1. Could you bring us some of those plastic bags that are used for water? We want to see if it would be feasible to use them for the blades of the turbine.

A strong effort to ban plastics is having a significant effect. Water bags are gone. It is no longer legal to sell water in these sachets.

2. Cook stoves that could be potentially fit with thermoelectric generators or improved to capture more


Most women cook with 3 stone technique using legged pots over wood fire. Sometimes charcoal is used. Rocket stove has been I produced here, why not adopted? Wood to cook a small pot of rice would cost ~10D. In forested areas, it may be possible to harvest wood from forest. Will often cook in two pots: 1 for rice and 1 for sauce. Some foods may need to be cooked for long periods - i.e. locust tree beans must be boiled for 12 hours as one step of preparation process. Cooking two pots for larger extended family in a compound will require about 50D wood ($1). Economics of cooking fuel should support adoption of better cooking system. Could we design a form for an entrepreneur to propagate a stove system? Mud with corrugated top featuring 2 openings for pots. Repurposed tin cans to form a flue?



Typical 3-stone cooking method. Set up in a small enclosed structure.












Legged pot over active fire.


Kitchen at Nursery School.




















Expensive personal stove: small openings for fire, round openings to set pots in, and chimney.  Concrete and tile. 












Rocket stove at Sandele    



















3. Note the kinds of bio-waste (ex. peanut shells) from agriculture that could be used in briquettes.


Gambians typically cut fields of grasses and burn it at the end of the rainy season.  In May there will be little vegetation, apart from the forests.  In Jan there is a lot of brush that could be used.  They also seldom compost plant materials after harvesting a crop, instead often burn off waste. 



Progression Oct-Feb (in March they did a controlled burn of what was left), 2010-11 Brikama.


Rowan developed a peanut (groundnut) shell cooking briquette several years ago.  We will get the reports on this project from Rowan.  Dr. Gregory Kennedy at the US Peace Corps described “Sand dunes of shell's rotting.” At Sandele we also found a small set-up for producing briquettes for the rocket stove. 


Groundnut briquettes (left – from Rowan’s 2013 ASEE paper: https://peer.asee.org/service-learning-without-borders-turning-peanut-shells-to-fuel-briquettes-in-the-gambia) and those for the rocket stove at Sandele.  













4. Gather wind speed data at different heights(on the ground vs. on top of a house) to better determine wind turbine feasibility.


A wind speed sensor has been mounted at Pirang, 5-6 meters off ground on solar array structure. Recorded for 1 rather windy day (the next day the wind was still for much of the day) - recorded day may have been windiest day in Pirang out of 9 days.  Winds over 1 km/h for 9 of 10 hours with an average speed (during those 9 hours) of 3.6 km/h.  Nyamo Sanyang will continue to collect wind sopeed data at MEHDA indefinitely.  Winds very reliable along coast. Sandele has three installed wind turbines with a total capacity of approximately 2.5 kW (Figure 10). Former UTG physics student Hassum Jagne is now working at The Gambia Standards Bureau (https://www.iso.org/member/576505.html).  He is developing standards related to renewable energy and has national data on wind speeds.  We will follow up with Hassum for his wind data. May also have other relevant data for our projects.  


Sandele wind turbine – built on site.  Currently not operation after lightning storm damage. 


5. Check availability of turbine components such as 12v dc motors, copper wire, cardboard, wooden components (level of wood work skills in the area), metal components(level of metal work skills in the area).  Note what kind of appliances people may have that run on usb (5v) power and contain batteries.


EGR49X students will follow up with UTG Physics students for more depth on this topic as part of discussions described above.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.