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Tonga College with brighter future thanks to Kiwis

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Team photo in front of solar scheme

Media release

February 8

Tonga College heads back to school with a brighter future thanks to budding young Kiwi engineers

Hundreds of students and staff at Tonga College now have the opportunity to access the latest computers, books and technical equipment thanks to the efforts of a group of young Kiwi engineers.

Seven volunteers from Engineers Without Borders New Zealand (EWBNZ) travelled to Tonga late 2009 to install a solar-powered ground water pumping system at Tonga College, which will significantly reduce the financial burden of providing clean water to 1600 students and staff.

With the new system designed by EWBNZ installed, the school will save more than $800 NZD a month – the cost of filling its 25,000 litre water tank daily using a diesel-powered pump system.

The principal of Tonga College, Isikeli Oko, says the savings will now be invested in much needed resources like computers, books and technical equipment.

Project Leader, 20 year-old Jonathan Cheng, a PhD student at the University of Auckland’s Engineering School, says the project was “a proud success for EWBNZ and Tonga College and an invaluable learning experience for everyone involved”.

“We faced a number of significant challenges with this project, including having to modify several aspects of the design for the solar pumping system on-site. These surprises are all part of the learning experience that allows us to apply and extend beyond what we learn at university” Cheng says.

In addition to the direct economic benefits, the team says the scheme will serve as a tangible example of renewable energy and sustainable technologies to the students at Tonga College and the wider community.

“EWBNZ is committed to effecting change first and foremost through empowerment of the community so part of the project involved our team engaging students and staff at the college in implementing basic measures to improve water and energy conservation – simple measures like identifying leaking pipes and changing settings in computer labs to save energy,” says Cheng.

The solar-powered ground water pumping system was entirely designed by the EWBNZ team, which spent a year and a half researching and planning the system and raising funds for the project.

The EWBNZ team was made up of graduate students Jonathan Cheng, Anita Walbran and Bridget Rule; along with four other engineering students from the University of Auckland Daniel Scott, Graham dos Santos, Fatima Leung-Wai and Peter Luk; Dr Peter Richards, Deputy Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Derek Smith, a Senior Project Manager at Sinclair Knight Merz. The project was executed in partnership with EcoCARE Pacific Trust.

EWBNZ would like to thank project supporters NZAid, Pacific Blue, ABB, Rotary Club of Auckland East, Revue for Engineering Faculty Students, Air New Zealand Freight, Sinclair Knight Merz and South Pacific Indigenous Engineering Students Association for their generous financial support.


Note to editors:

About Engineers Without Borders New Zealand (EWBNZ)

EWBNZ is made up of both professional and student engineers with a shared vision to confront the global challenges of poverty, sustainable development and social inequity by undertaking community-driven projects and programmes aimed at improving the quality of life in communities within New Zealand and in the South Pacific region.

Engineers Without Borders New Zealand (EWBNZ) is a registered charity with members from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, and is involved in engineering projects locally and in the wider south pacific.

For more information visit: http://www.ewb.org.nz/

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