Appropriate Technology Collaborative

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative creates sustainable technologies that promote economic growth and improve the quality of life for low income people worldwide. We design, demonstrate, and distribute affordable technologies. Working in collaboration with local talent and other nonprofits (NGOs) we create solutions that are culturally sensitive, environmentally responsible and locally repairable in order to improve the quality of life and reduce adverse impacts on the environment.
Dec 4, 2013

Report From ATC Team in Guatemala

Learning Carpentry Skills
Learning Carpentry Skills

Activity Report, Mayan Power and Light Workshop, November 2013.

(Note:  This report is a translation of a report from the ATC team in Xela, Guatemala who traveled to Lake Atitlan to teach our Circuits and Solar class and to help start a solar power cooperative.  There are photos missing that will be added as an attachment.)


This document is a report of the activities carried out in Santa Cruz la Laguna and Panajachel, with the Mayan Women mentors, which aimed to reinforce the skills possessed by young Mayan women so that in the future they may be able to start a small enterprise or cooperative in order to sell and install small solar energy systems.



Increase the knowledge and skills of the Estrella de Mar young women in regards to technical matters.


The following are some of the specific objectives:

  • Develop capabilities for using tools
  • Get to know solar panel technology and its uses.
  • Get to know the minimal requirements for a small installation.
  • Carry out practices to gain the skills needed in order to do a self-installation.

Tools and carpentry workshop:

The workshop proceeded according to plan, starting at 9:00 at the CECAP site in Santa Cruz la Laguna. 21 young women participated, aided by 3 Estrella de Mar mentors in the morning and one in the afternoon, plus 2 people from AEIDS who helped in the development of the workshop.

The young women first received a theoretical tools workshop in order to receive some guidelines regarding their use, shape, practical recommendations, etc. They then went to the CECAP carpentry workshop, where they built a small wooden box 22x16x12 cm tall. They measured, cut and assembled the wood until it was done. Each person built one box, but they worked in pairs to help each other out.

In the afternoon, they worked with electronic circuits as an introduction to the following day when they would go into more depth into the topic of solar panels.

Panels Workshop.

The second day was spent in Panajachel since it was near the facilities that would be needed in the afternoon.

We only lent our support to the 3 mentors from Estrella del Mar that worked with the young women.

The panels’ output was measured in the light, shade, connected in series and in parallel. We also covered every connection that an actual system would have, the site location, considerations due to shade, orientation and inclination of the panel.



     During the installation process, we split into two groups because we had to complete two installations in two separate houses.

     I went with the group that made the installation at Santa Catarina Palopó, which took us all afternoon to complete.

We found the installation site and then checked for shadows so we could later find a place for the controller and install the light bulbs.


After carrying out the activity we can draw the following conclusions:

  • Women have been able to develop skills for using tools they don’t normally use, improving their own abilities, creating development and more opportunities.
  • It was possible to empower them with basic knowledge in electricity and electronics so they can understand the benefits and risks of working with electricity and so be able to carry out small installations.
  • The women got to know a new useful technology, non-polluting and which uses the sun, a resource that is highly available in Guatemala. They also learned that using this technology they can bring development to their communities as agents of change.
Mayan Woman Learning Carpentry Skills
Mayan Woman Learning Carpentry Skills
"Circuits and Solar" Workshop
"Circuits and Solar" Workshop
"Circuits and Solar" Workshop 2
"Circuits and Solar" Workshop 2
Learning Solar
Learning Solar


Aug 20, 2013

Mayan Women's Solar Workshop

First Solar Power System Assembled
First Solar Power System Assembled
ATC Logo With Text and Slogan JPEG

ATC Circuits and Solar Workshop for Mayan Women 2013

Women Carpentry Workshop 1200
Mayan Women Learn Carpentry at CECAP School in Santa Cruz Guatemala

On July 17, 2013 we held the first part of the ATC workshop "Circuits and Solar" for Mayan women mentors and teachers who work with Mayan girls in Solola and Santiago, Guatemala, part of our Mayan Power and Light program.   Our local Engineers, José Ordoñez and Carlos Alvarez taught the course at the CECAP school in Santa Cruz La Laguna.  The four part workshop begins with an introduction to carpentry tools.  The CECAP facility is perfect for this because they have a well equipped shop plus they have an ATC solar demonstration project on the roof.  

For the carpentry course, the women were given an overview of the tools available and then given the challenge of building a wooden box to specified dimensions.  For several of the women attending the workshop this was the first time they had worked with carpentry tools, and from their feedback they had a great time!

Learning Electronics 1200     Learning Electronics 2 1200
Learning About Electricity, Circuits and Controls
After completing the introduction to carpentry workshop, the women moved on to learning about electricity, circuits and controls for circuits.  This part of the workshop includes the use of professional quality tools such as "bread boards" that allow you to easily connect various components of an electric circuit.  The women used volt meters, resistors, LEDs and a variety of fun electronic components like buzzers and photo diodes.  The women learned a lot in short period of time.  

Jose Teaching 1200     Woman With Solar Light 2 1200
Jose Demonstrating and Women Learning How To Wire Together Solar Power Systems
The next day the workshop moved to Panajachel, near the office of our partners for this project, Starfish One-By-One.  Each mentor received an ATC "Kit Solar". Each kit contains a complete solar power system that provides two lights plus a USB cell phone charger for homes that don't have access to electricity.  

Note:  Each home that lacks electricity burns candles and kerosene lamps to see at night.  With candles and kerosene you burn a lot of fuel and get relatively little light.  Also families that burn kerosene inhale a lot of toxic smoke, equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day for every member of the family according to the World Health Organization.  Converting to solar saves lives!


Installing Solar 1200
Hands On Solar Installation
The final part of the workshop was installing a solar power system on a home that lacks electricity.  The women did all the work and they did it like seasoned professionals.  

The family that has the new solar power system actually was once connected to the electric grid but the cost of electricity in Guatemala (and most less economically developed countries) is much more than in the United States.  It is an unfortunate truth that the poor often pay more for basic services than those of us who are more affluent.  However the high cost of electricity makes solar power a very attractive option for Guatemalans.

971908_10200116420773912_1607951622_n     07.18.2013_solar-panel-worshop5 (2)
   Workshop participants with Jose and Carlos       Graduates of the Circuits and Solar Workshop 

I visited part three of the workshop as the women were starting to test solar panels and wire together their "Kits Solares".  There was a level of intensity and excitement in the room with the women asking lots of questions and having fun learning new skills.  Several days after the workshop, I talked with Norma, the Director of Starfish in Panajachel and she said that for many of the women this was a life changing experience.  They never had imagined that they could learn and accomplished so much in a technical field like solar power.  

The ultimate goal of our Mayan Power and Light project is to help Mayan Girls start a solar power cooperative.  The workshop participants have already asked us for extra solar hardware for additional installations.  


We have been very fortunate to collaborate with Starfish One-By-One, an NGO which provides opportunities and mentoring for young Mayan women and our Engineers José Ordoñez and Carlos Alvarez, who make learning technical subjects fun. We also thank Michael Smith of Ann Arbor who created the original Circuits and Solar curriculum.  We also need to thank you for your contribution to this project!   Without you and our local collaborative partners, our Mayan Power and Light fproject would not be possible.

Mayan Power and Light is successful beyond our original goals.  We started this program with the intention of providing the Circuits and Solar workshop to a total of 4 women mentors and 24 Mayan Girls.  We are now on track to teach 12 mentors and 45 Mayan girls this year.  (We also have a waiting list of over 100 for next year)

In order to continue our success we need to find more funding so each girl can get a "Kit Solar" ($100 ea.) and have the experience of installing solar power on a home that lacks electricity.  We also need to pay for more teachers and additional transportation, books and materials.  

Please consider a donation to this program through Global Giving:

Thank you,


John S. Barrie

Executive Director
The Appropriate Technology Collaborative
3796 Plaza Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
ph:   734.668.4811
Jul 19, 2013

Additional Material Added to "Circuits and Solar"

This summer we added sections to our "Circuits and Solar" curriculum, and we have had our first trial of the new curriculum yesterday and today (in Guatemala)

The additional material helps students understand how to connect solar panels together to either create higher voltage or higher amperage.  (The total amount of electricity is the same)

We are not achieving our goal to support our NGO friends in Cameroon.  We will continue this campaign and add a new page on our website to see if we can create a better support network for our partners.  

We will be posting about the Cameroon campaign later this fall.  

Thank you 

John Barrie

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