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Mayan Power and Light

by Appropriate Technology Collaborative
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Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Our next business is waiting for funding.
Our next business is waiting for funding.

We have been very successful so far with our Mayan Power and Light program.  We have taught 200 people about solar power, including over 100 Mayan women.  We have started a solar business that is profitable, 90% owned by women, and we are ready to start two 100% woman owned solar businesses in 2014, but we can only do this with your help.

Actually we have extra help on June 25th, when -- after 12:00 noon -- Microsoft Youthspark has agreed to match every grant we receive up to $1,000 per grant and up to $1,000,000 for the program.  From historic data we should have all June 25th to match the Microsoft money.

Please share this with your friends.  We want to start two new Mayan woman owned solar businesses.  This will provide income to 12 families + provide light to 2,000 families every year.  ATC will be working with the businesses for 5 years to insure they are profitable and that they can help start other sustainable businesses.  

With your help we can greatly enhance the lives of 10,000 people per year, every year for at least 5 years.

Women who earn extra income invest more in their families.  Their children receive better nutrition and with better light they do their homework in the evenings for the first time.  

Mark June 25th on your calendar.  On June 25th after 12:00 noon, Microsoft Youthspark will be matching donations to the ATC Mayan Power and Light program up to $1,000 for each donation.

We have been incredibly successful with teaching young Mayan women about electricity, circuits and solar power.  In January we started our first woman owned* solar business, Sistemas Energeticas Appropriadas (SEA).  SEA works out of Xela, the second largest city in Guatemala.  I visited SEA in May and helped install a 40 watt solar power system on a church/community center.  The transformation from no electricity to having bright LED lights is powerful, and amazing to watch a building become a very well used community center.  In the past most meetings were called off at dusk.  In Guatemala that is often around 6:00 pm.  With electric lights people can organize!  

If you ever want to see our work in Guatemala please check out travel with ATC on our website.  We take 6 - 10 groups to visit Guatemala every year.  The trips are volunteer work trips, so be prepared to get your hands muddy, learn about electricity and meet a great group of people who make all our Guatemalan projects work.  

Thank you for considering this,

Please don't forget June 25th


Mayan Women Teach "Circuits and Solar"
Mayan Women Teach "Circuits and Solar"
Wiring the Solar Control Panel
Wiring the Solar Control Panel
Learning To Install Multiple Solar Panels
Learning To Install Multiple Solar Panels


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Learning Solar
Learning Solar


As I write this today we just finished installing solar power on a pre-school in the village of Panyebar, Guatemala. The building had no electricity.  In cloudy weather the classrooms were very dark.  Now the building is a community center.  Women are already signed up to work collaboratively in the evening hours to weave and do needle-point work so they have more to sell in the market.  Community members have arranged for meetings at night to discuss how to improve their lives.  All of this is possible because of you and your generous support of what we now call our Mayan Power and Light program.

The ATC Mayan Power and Light program has had the great fortune to have an dedicated and capable team in Guatemala helping us realize our very ambitious goals.  We set out to achieve much and we have acomplished more than expected in a very busy 18 months.

Project Outcomes as of March 4, 2014:

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative Mayan Power and Light program original goals were :

• To teach 24 – 36 Guatemalan women about electricity, circuit design and solar technology.

We taught 83 young Mayan women the "Circuits and Solar" curriculum.

• Trained 8 women mentors in the Circuits and Solar curriculum.

We have trained 13 women mentors.

• Conducted a workshop in the United States for nonprofit organizations and others to learn the Circuits and Solar curriculum.

Completed October 2012

• Started a Mayan women’s solar power business that will sell solar lighting and power systems to households and small businesses.

We started SEA Solar, a majority woman owned business in December 2013.

• Conducted a workshop in Guatemala for NGOs to learn the “Circuits and Solar” curriculum and how to incubate solar power businesses.

We conducted a workshop for other NGOs in August 2013

Circuits and Solar students have:

• Installed over 50 home energy systems.

• Worked with Business students to create a business plan for a solar power social venture.

• Participated in a hands-on workshops to install solar power on at least one municipal building. 

The Mayan Power and Light Program Continues

The Mayan Power and Light program has been very well received.  We now have over 100 students on the waiting list for the educational program, and we have two groups who have been pre-qualified for starting solar social ventures.  

We need your continued support to provide business plans, start-up capital, continued education and solar inventory.  

We are asking to please help us fully fund this Global Giving campaing.  When we reach our goal of $20,000 we will be able to support two new businesses.  Each business will help 1,000 families per year switch from burning candles and kerosene lamps, which is expensive, to inexpensive solar power.  The business we started in December is making great sales and they are willing to help us start new woman owned businesses in other parts of Guatemala and beyond.  

Your help is critical to our success.  It has made all the difference so far.

Thank you,

John Barrie, Executive Director

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative

Carpentry Workshop
Carpentry Workshop
Graduating Class
Graduating Class


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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


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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
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Testing a Small Solar Power System
Testing a Small Solar Power System

I am just back from Guatemala where I met with the lead teacher for women's class for Circuits and Solar.

We had 32 women sign up to learn to teach the class for the Spring / Summer term.  We had originally decided that we would teach 2 women mentors in the Spring and another 2 women in the Fall.  With such enthusiasm on the part of the teachers we have changed the program to teach 12 Mayan women mentors this summer and a total of 45 students in the fall.  Note:  This far exceeds our original goal of teaching 4 women mentors and 24 - 36 students.  

This leaves us with a dilemma.  We have created a class that bridges the technology gap between men and women but because the class is expensive to teach (each student and teacher receives a solar power kit which costs ATC just under $100.00 each) plus we have had to add a class in how to use basic construction tools for the women mentors.   It looks like we  are going to come up short at the end of the year by $3,500 - $4,000.

We try to have our reports be upbeat and not just another request for funding.  Unfortunately this time we need to break with our tradition and ask you for a donation to help this program be the success people have come to expect from The Appropriate Technology Collaborative.  

Also of news, we have made some changes in the curriculum and how the class is taught.  Each student and teacher will be responsible for installing their solar power system in a home or other building that lacks electricity.  They will work in groups so everyone has experience with more than one installation. 

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Organization Information

Appropriate Technology Collaborative

Location: Ann Arbor, MI - USA
Project Leader:
John Barrie
Ann Arbor, MI United States
$93,773 raised of $100,000 goal
1,439 donations
$6,227 to go
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