Fall 2022 - Sponsors’ Activity Report

Robert H. Giles, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Lowell Physics Department

The Current Activities – Committed to our Community Partnerships

During the past year, Haitians continue to suffer with wide-spread destruction of their homes and landscape from natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes driving unprecedented daily social unrest and gang violence. With a dysfunctional economy and dangerously limited access to food, energy and potable water, the poorest citizens of Haiti lash out regularly hoping someone, with the power to change their conditions, take notice.

It can be difficult to read these reports knowing the environmental issues and energy access is a global challenge. More difficult are the challenges we face teaching an online laboratory-based science course at UPSAC in Les Cayes knowing these university students and their family face these challenges every day. Scheduled on Wednesdays at 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, too often we start late because of challenges with the internet connection, or the electricity, or the tropical rainy weather. Most concerning now however are the frequently violent street protests making travel to the university by our students unsafe.

Committed to our academic partnership with the Université Publique du Sud Aux Cayes (UPSAC) in Laborde, Haiti; UMass Lowell’s undergraduate computer science major, Jacob Cole builds on last year’s electronics lab program developed and taught by physics major, Anne Souza. Now in the second year under the HDSC/UPSAC academic collaborative, I continue to teach a “Science of Energy” lecture course along with delivering electronics laboratory curriculum. We conducted the lecture/lab course Wednesday’s 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM and have successfully completed the AY2021/2022 online curriculum with the aid of UPSAC’s Science Instructor, Pierre-Louis Maxo and Language Assistant, Steevenson Rosema. (Jacob Cole’s final report has been provided.)

When discussing the challenges of global energy and its impact on climate, UPSAC’s students fervently asked for more content on the science and technology of solar photovoltaic energy. Recognizing the opportunity to demonstrate the affordability of harvesting energy from the sun using photovoltaics (PV), I led the students through the design and fabrication of a 5-volt fixed-output regulator circuit, providing sufficient supplies such that every student could build their own solar PV phone charger. Needless to say, we had their attention!

Haitian American business leader, Mr. James Eliscar, approached HDSC in the Spring of 2019 on behalf of Simone, Haiti to evaluate the challenge of establishing a micro-electricity grid. UML’s undergraduate Business major, Brendon Aylaian, designed and evaluated the economic feasibility of a small solar energy micro-grid with smart-meters for pay-as-you-use electricity to be installed in the community of Simone. Initially receiving a donation (facilitated by the HDSC) of 60 solar panels for the community grid, Mr. Eliscar has his own shipping company for transporting the panels to Haiti. Receiving another major panel donation, to date the program has received over 170 solar panels for the microgrid through HDSC’s partner organization.

There is no better path to learning than through the words of past and recent authors. James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987), one of the most famous American writers, has immortalized his impact on American politics through his writing which describes the racism he witnessed and experienced throughout his life. However, his translation into words of what he lived is still relevant to date. Hence, wanting to share his knowledge and passion of James Baldwin, Dr. Mitchell decides to hold an on-line seminar with the students of UPSAC on January 29th to discuss a short story— “Sonny’s Blues”—and three essays: “The American Dream and the American Negro,” “The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American,” and “A Talk to Teachers” of the late writer. To complement the discussion, Dr. Mitchell shares a YouTube video of “James Baldwin vs William F. Buckley: A Legendary Debate” to give the students a glimpse of the author’s fierce words. After receiving the materials, the students had three weeks to complete the assignment so they could be prepared to share their thoughts and ask questions. Assisted by HDSC’s Intern (Dayana Alabre), Dr. Mitchell also prepared key questions for them to have in mind while reading as well as the answers to justify their importance.

The online seminar started at 9am with UPSAC’s English Department faculty and students present. Dr Mitchell responded to the questions they brought, but since they were meeting him for the first time and acclimating to this kind of seminar, their shyness prevented them from asking and sharing more. Nevertheless, Dr. Mitchell and UPSAC’s faculty felt the event was a success and that organizing more of these seminars will help them grow the diversity of curriculum offered at UPSAC.

As Director of UMass Lowell’s Haiti Development Studies Center (HDSC), it is with great pleasure to announce that this year’s recipient of HDSC’s Endowed Scholarship Award is Marie Dayana Alabre. It is with deep gratitude that the HDSC members awarded her this support in recognition of her continued commitment as an HDSC undergraduate intern since September of 2015. Inspired by her academic excellence as an English major over the past six years in UML’s online program, we also look forward to seeing her complete her undergraduate program on the University campus as a full-time Honors College student starting this Fall 2022.

Making a Difference Together

Serving as a model international academic framework, UML researchers seek partnerships with philanthropic foundations for supporting the Haiti Development Study Center and are grateful for its growing base of sponsors. By providing scholarships and operational support for HDSC programs, these partnerships strengthen our commitment to impoverished international communities, using research, technology and education to make a lasting difference. The HDSC is an academic engine, small, but powerful enough to work in both directions; sharpening the research skills of UMass Lowell students and raising their awareness about factors that hinder progress in impoverished countries, while also helping Haitian students get the education they need to move their country forward.

Committed toward the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s mission to provide a transformational education that fosters student global awareness, the Haiti Development Studies Center recognizes Board of Advisors:

  • Brian Corr, Executive Director, Cambridge Peace Commission
  • English Professor Keith Mitchell
  • Environmental Science Professor Lori Weeden
  • Physics Professor Silas Laycock
  • Physics Professor Cecil Joseph

With a complete list of its advisors, participating faculty and sponsored activities available at: The Haiti Development Studies Center.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is a public research university committed to excellence in teaching, research and community engagement. Our mission is to provide a transformational education that fosters student success, lifelong learning and global awareness. UMass Lowell offers affordable, experience-based undergraduate and graduate academic programs taught by internationally recognized faculty who conduct research to expand the horizons of knowledge.

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