D-Lab challenge results in photo voltaic profession in Africa


When she began her junior 12 months after a company internship that left her feeling unfulfilled, Jodie Wu ’09 was questioning her path as an engineer. Taking part in a D-Lab class challenge in Tanzania revealed a method to make use of her ardour for engineering to assist serve rising markets in Africa whereas additionally having an affect. 

Wu remembers being naïve the primary time she traveled to Africa: “As a pupil, you assume it can save you the world in three weeks.” However throughout that go to and a number of other return journeys by the MIT Priscilla King Grey Public Service Middle, she began to know the scope of issues confronted by rural communities there—issues she continues to be making an attempt to deal with greater than a decade later. 

Now primarily based in Rwanda, she is COO at ­OffGridBox, a Boston-based startup whose all-in-one system makes use of vitality from photo voltaic panels to cost batteries and purify water. Its clients embrace NGOs, companies, farms, colleges, hospitals and clinics, and householders. 


After commencement, Wu ran World Cycle Options, which she’d based to deliver a bicycle-powered maize sheller to smallholder farmers in Tanzania after profitable the marketing strategy portion of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competitors. “The half that impressed me most about Tanzania was how individuals may have so little however be so beneficiant,” she says. “And I caught with it as a result of I like the fieldwork. Some individuals would possibly assume, ‘Oh, bucket showers, automobile breakdowns—it’s arduous work,’ however for me, I’ve all the time taken it as journey.” 

As Wu traveled to rural areas making an attempt to promote her maize sheller and have become fluent in Swahili, she realized that solar-powered merchandise have been in excessive demand in these communities. She shifted World Cycle Options to distributing photo voltaic lights earlier than promoting the enterprise in 2017. 

Wu joined OffGridBox as a result of the startup’s solar-powered system—which is contained in a single 6x6x6-foot delivery container—appealed to her as a sustainable, inexpensive resolution for creating economies and distant places missing electrical infrastructure. The advantage of the packing containers has turn out to be particularly clear throughout the pandemic: the corporate was awarded funding by the USAID Energy Africa Alternatives Program to affect six authorities well being facilities, which serve hundreds of sufferers a month. 

Wu says these facilities beforehand had inadequate energy, particularly to help vaccine fridges, sterilizers, and toddler heaters. Now they’ve energy 24/7. “OffGridBox helps nurses and docs save lives,” she says. “With near 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s health-care amenities missing entry to electrical energy, there may be lots extra work to do.”

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