ASU students will spend their spring break soaking up the sun. Literally.

Sun Devils will be installing solar panels to underserved community housing near San Diego

A team of ASU students will spend their spring break under the sun in San Diego, but instead of relaxing on the beach, the Sun Devils will be installing solar panels in underserved areas.

Ten ASU graduate students will participate in GRID Alternatives' Solar Spring Break where they will use their engineering education to serve the community. All ten students are from the solar energy engineering and commercialization program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy at ASU.

“Our students came across this opportunity two years ago,” said Karen Dada, program manager for the solar energy engineering and commercialization program in SEMTE. “In Solar Power International Conference at Anaheim, some of our students interacted with GRID Alternatives' representatives and they introduced us about the program”.

This will be the third year that a team from ASU will be participating in this initiative. Students find it interesting and helpful to gain a hands-on experience in solar panel installation, Dada said.

“It was a lot of fun," Anne Brigitte Lim, a masters’ student in solar energy engineering and commercialization program, said. Lim attended Solar Spring Break in 2016.

“We were trained on how to install the solar panels on the first day and then we were split into two groups to work on different homes,” Lim said. “It was exciting to work with the actual solar panels and gaining the practical experience of what we studied."

Even though the majority of students participating in previous years are from the solar energy department of SEMTE, Lim said that anyone can take part in it and that it's a good way to spend your spring break if you are interested in sustainability and community service.

“We stayed in the San Pasqual Tribal lands and installed the solar panels there," Lim said. "We made traditional necklaces with them and learned about their culture. [GRID Alternatives] understood that we are on spring break. So they made sure we had fun."

Students learn about the opportunity through the program's orientation, as well as an email from the department. However, it is up to students to want to be a part of Solar Spring Break.

Solar energy engineering and commercialization graduate student Laksh Muchhal, one of the ten students from the solar energy engineering and commercialization program, said he is excited to be participating in the solar spring break this year.

“I have heard a lot of good things about the program from the ones who did it and their catalog looks great," Muchhal said. “Since there will be training there, I am not preparing much.”

To participate in the program, each team is required to pay a $5,000 fee for programming and lodging. ASU students in the solar energy engineering and commercialization program pay by using a "program fee" — specifically for conferences and projects — that is part of their tuition. While students must take up the travelling charges themselves, many use different ways of funding provided by ASU, like travel grants.

“We tried to organize a fundraiser and contacted several student clubs and coalitions,” Muchhal said. “Because of the tight schedule this semester, we were unable to apply for some funding process. Hopefully we will figure it out by the time we go.”

Muchhal believes that this program can be promoted more by ASU so that any Sun Devil who is interested in sustainability or community service can find out about the opportunity. 

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