Mayan Power and Light

Mayan Power and Light

Solola, Santiago, Panajachel, GuatemalaAnn Arbor, United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative (ATC) is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to design, develop, demonstrate and distribute appropriate technological solutions for meeting the basic human needs of low income people in the developing world. ATC works in collaboration with our clients to create technologies that are affordable and environmentally responsible.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Two Problems: One: In much of Guatemala electricity is scarce. People light their homes with kerosene lamps and candles. Kerosene is inefficient and expensive. One burns a lot of fuel to get relatively little light. Basic activities such as cleaning, reading and schoolwork cannot be done by kerosene light. The cost for kerosene is $.60 to $.80 per week. For $.50 per week (for 3 years) families can purchase cleaner, brighter solar power and light. Two: In Guatemala malnutrition is endemic with 1 of every 2 children chronically malnourished. Lack of education, particularly for girls, keeps families trapped in poverty. A proven way to break the cycle of poverty is to provide education and opportunity. We propose to teach young Mayan women how to design, install and sell solar power.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative and our Guatemalan team will teach 24 - 36 young Guatemalan Mayan women "Circuits and Solar", our very successful class on basic electronics, circuit design and hands-on training for solar designers and installers. We will also help our students to set up a solar power cooperative to sell solar power. Our Mayan women students will have the opportunity to become solar technicians in a new sustainable Women's Solar Power Cooperative. Future Impact: Once we and our Guatemala staff have trained Mayan women mentors, and we have our teaching materials in place, the cost to teach Circuits and Solar will be greatly reduced allowing us to reach more women and to expand into new parts of Guatemala and into new countries. Note: Our basic class "Circuits and Solar" is being taught in Kenya and Cameroon. Mayan women graduates will be role models within their communities showing that women can make a living in a technical field.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We will: teach 24 - 36 Mayan women about solar technology; provided a hands-on learning experience installing solar power in a minimum of 24 homes and at least two commercial projects; train 2 - 4 women mentors in the Circuits and Solar curriculum; increase the capacity of our Guatemalan Engineering and Business team to teach engineering, solar design and business; start a women's solar power cooperative; improve air quality and health outcomes for a minimum of 24 Guatemalan families as kerosene lights in the area are replaced by solar home lighting systems; improve economic conditions for a minimum of 24 Guatemalan families by replacing expensive kerosene lamps and by providing more hours for study and work; install solar power on a minimum 2 small scale commercial buildings such as community centers and / or schools. Educating women and providing them opportunity creates additional benefits. In developing countries women with more education have healthier families and their children are more likely to stay in school longer. Women who earn more invest 90% of their additional income in their families. Men, on the other hand, invest only 30 - 40% of extra earnings in their families. Positive Change: Graduates of Circuits and Solar who join the co-op will sell solar lighting systems to households that lack electricity - a large market. In the lake Atitlan region of Guatemala where this project is located 70,000 people live in homes with no electricity. In the region just to the north electrification has reached only 60% of the population.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Two competitors are The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) and Engineers Without Borders (EWB). AIDG primarily focuses on infrastructure development and business incubation. We have collaborated with AIDG on several projects and we compliment each other's strengths well. The Appropriate Technology Collaborative has worked with EWB on a clean water supply project to the village of Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan in Guatemala. This has been a challenging project that has brought about positive change in the village as well as improved the quality and quantity of water available. In fall 2012 a new water supply is scheduled to to start up and supply water for decades to come. ATC/EWB student participants have gone on to become student leaders of EWB.

Founding Story

ATC taught the first "Circuits and Solar" classes in the Spring of 2012 at the Centro de Capacitacion (CECAP) trade school in Santa Cruz, and at the Asturias Academy, both in Guatemala. Though the classes were very successful, and now have waiting lists, ATC Founder John Barrie noticed 95% of all students who signed up for Circuits and Solar were boys. John asked the school directors about the make up of the schools and found that even with a high percentage girl population, for the most part boys take technical classes in electronics and welding and girls take weaving and sewing. John talked with local Mayan girls who said they think solar power is cool, but taking classes with boys is not. Thus the Mayan Power and Light project was born. Mayan girls with more education earn more money and invest more in their families Their children are healthier and are more likely to finish school. Creating opportunity for girls to take Circuits and Solar will reduce poverty.
About You
The Appropriate Technology Collaborative
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative

Organization Country

, MI, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, SO, Solola, Santiago, Panajachel

Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to talent, Access to supply chains, Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We have taught Circuits and Solar twice in Guatemala. We now have a waiting list for January 2013. However 95% of the students who signed up for the class were young men. We surveyed school administrators, students and potential girl students. We found that Mayan girl students don't take technical classes with boy students. The Mayan girls have a strong interest in learning about solar power and they suggested starting a women's solar power cooperative.

So far we have helped to install hundreds of solar power systems in homes that lack electricity and we have installed larger scale solar power systems at schools around the world.

ATC has purchased solar equipment for 4-6 commercial installations and we have a minimum of 24 small scale solar power systems for residential installations. These projects will help the Women's Solar Power Cooperative demonstrate the value of solar power and help them start their business. ATC will work with the co-op for a minimum of 5 years.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

In one year our Mayan girl students will have installed a minimum of 24 residential scale solar power systems and at least two commercial scale systems. Business students from the University of Michigan will have helped design a business plan for the "Mayan Power and Light" cooperative and Mayan students will be learning the business of selling and installing solar power and light solutions.

ATC will continually update the curriculum and the technology so that our team(s) will continue to be competetive.

Year 2 - 3: ATC will have expanded the program to both Matagalpa, Nicaragua and the Managua Nicaragua City Dump where we work with "rag pickers" to create business opportunities. We will also have expanded this program into Kenya and Camaroon where we have NGO partners.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The final success of this project depends on creating a sustainable business plan that supports "Mayan Power and Light", an all woman solar power cooperative - and the cooperative has to be successful within the existing marketplace.

To overcome the barriers to success ATC will incubate Mayan Power and Light for a 5 year period. We will take primary responsibility for finding work for the cooperative and helping structure the business, but by the end of 5 years the cooperative will have to stand on its own merit.

University of Michigan Business students (also Kellogg School of Management students) have expressed a strong desire to help ATC and the Mayan Power and Light cooperative create a business plan that addresses existing and potential future markets.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Working with our Mayan women mentors, our Guatemalan Engineers will adapt the Circuits and Solar curriculum.

Task 2

ATC and our Mayan women partners will have taught Circuits and Solar at least once.

Task 3

At least 12 Mayan girl students will have hands-on experience installing residential and commercial solar power.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

24 - 36 Young Mayan women will have taken Circuits and Solar. The all will have hands-on experience installing solar power.

Task 2

ATC will have revised the curriculum for Circuits and Solar and made the new curriculum available online for free!

Task 3

Circuits and Solar will be taught in Kenya, Cameroon and Chile and ATC will have feedback from these classes.

Tell us about your partnerships

For the Mayan Power and Light project ATC will collaborate with the CECAP school in Santa Cruz la Laguna, Starfish One-by-One, a Mayan women's mentoring group, Mayan Families who work with local Mayan talent to train technicians and to keep Mayan kids in school, and with the Asturias Academy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list