Oaklands School

In November 2009, the IEEE Student Branch at The University of Capetown (UCT) secured 20 personal computers from the UCT Engineering and Built Environment faculty that were still functional. Reinforcing UCT’s previous EPICS in IEEE project goals, UCT students and committee worked with high school students from Oaklands High School and Oude Molen Technical High School to install the new computer lab and conduct an energy audit on the power consumed by the PC lab in order to assess energy consumption.

Working with the Khanya Project, part of the WCED (Western Cape Education Department), which aims to install computing facilities in schools without any in Western Cape, the UCT committee decided to work with two economically underprivileged schools that needed stronger technological resources. The groups chose Oaklands High School to receive the new computer lab and renewable energy supply and Oude Molen Technical High School to assist with the project and energy audit. Five to six students from each secondary school, all in the 10th grade and with strong engineering grades, were selected to work with UCT students and committee.

Phase A

Initially, the project plan was the installation of the computer lab with renewable energy. However, the Oaklands High School, at the time, was built in an old army barracks, which is an unsuitable structure for a modern technological lab. The WCED therefore decided to build a new school.

The first half of the project shifted to the focus of a practice energy audit in a Khanya lab, the identification of a suitable renewable energy source, and then the design and construction of a project model. To keep the project engaged, student learners developed two models instead of one, with the student learners being given more responsibility over design.

During the first phase, project sessions were planned to address:

  • Technical mentorship (training of learners in preparation for the energy audit review, model design/construction, and commissioning)
  • Energy audit (discussion of energy audit results, importance of power saving, and energy audit “homework” assignment for learners)
  • Model design and construction (learners design and construct models in groups)
  • Commissioning of hybrid renewable energy installation and models

Each session was planned by the Projects Committee Technical Department and included a welcome and briefing session by the chair, followed by a briefing by the student learners. Finally, the project manager would have a review session on new technologies and showcase ideas.

An auxiliary project, Computer Literacy for Academic Purposes (CLAP), was developed during the course of Phase A. David Oyedokun, vice chairperson of the projects committee, led training for over 100 learners in two schools for basic computer literacy skills.

During Phase A, several positive outcomes occurred, including an established partnership with Khanya for Phase B of the project. The project has received several sponsors, as well as Internet, newspaper, and radio coverage.

Over the course of the first phase, the groups were successful in establishing a hybrid renewable energy supply for the future computer lab. The student learners involved gave extremely positive feedback, as many expressed an interest in engineering as potential for future study.

Phase B

For the second phase, once the new Oaklands High School is built, the computer lab will be installed. However, due to the scope of the new building, the original donated computers will be sold in order to purchase new machines.

Once the new computer lab is installed at the school, the hybrid renewable energy supply will also be installed and become an asset to Oaklands High School. The new system will be maintained and given security by the school itself.

The maintenance of the wind turbine will be arranged by the UCT IEEE SB Projects Committee as part of Phase B of the project. The Projects Committee intends to secure funding for a three-year maintenance plan, which will form the basis of future maintenance. Beyond the initial three years, Oaklands High School will have to commit to secure funding for continued maintenance. The school administration has pledged to open a fund to support the wind turbine. The yearly Projects Committee of the UCT IEEE SB will always be in liaison with the school to ensure the smooth running of the wind turbine.

Author: Jeny Dowlin