When she began her junior 12 months after a company internship that left her feeling unfulfilled, Jodie Wu ’09 was questioning her path as an engineer. Taking part in a D-Lab class challenge in Tanzania revealed a method to make use of her ardour for engineering to assist serve rising markets in Africa whereas additionally having an impression.
Wu remembers being naïve the primary time she traveled to Africa: “As a scholar, you suppose it can save you the world in three weeks.” However throughout that go to and a number of other return journeys by way of the MIT Priscilla King Grey Public Service Middle, she began to know the scope of issues confronted by rural communities there—issues she remains to be attempting to sort out greater than a decade later.
Now based mostly in Rwanda, she is COO at OffGridBox, a Boston-based startup whose all-in-one system makes use of vitality from photo voltaic panels to cost batteries and purify water. Its clients embrace NGOs, companies, farms, faculties, hospitals and clinics, and householders.
After commencement, Wu ran International Cycle Options, which she’d based to convey a bicycle-powered maize sheller to smallholder farmers in Tanzania after successful the marketing strategy portion of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competitors. “The half that impressed me most about Tanzania was how individuals might have so little however be so beneficiant,” she says. “And I caught with it as a result of I really like the fieldwork. Some individuals would possibly suppose, ‘Oh, bucket showers, automobile breakdowns—it’s exhausting work,’ however for me, I’ve all the time taken it as journey.”
As Wu traveled to rural areas attempting to promote her maize sheller and have become fluent in Swahili, she realized that solar-powered merchandise have been in excessive demand in these communities. She shifted International Cycle Options to distributing photo voltaic lights earlier than promoting the enterprise in 2017.
Wu joined OffGridBox as a result of the startup’s solar-powered system—which is contained in a single 6x6x6-foot delivery container—appealed to her as a sustainable, inexpensive resolution for growing economies and distant areas missing electrical infrastructure. The good thing about the containers has grow to be particularly clear through the pandemic: the corporate was awarded funding by way of the USAID Energy Africa Alternatives Program to impress six authorities well being facilities, which serve hundreds of sufferers a month.
Wu says these facilities beforehand had inadequate energy, particularly to help vaccine fridges, sterilizers, and toddler heaters. Now they’ve energy 24/7. “OffGridBox helps nurses and medical doctors save lives,” she says. “With near 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s health-care services missing entry to electrical energy, there may be a lot extra work to do.”