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MIE Alum Leads Efforts to Provide Reliable Electricity in Haitian Classrooms Through New Solar Panels

Alumnus Martin Ross in Haiti

Martin Ross in Haiti

Martin Ross, a 1986 graduate from our Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and an avid supporter of the Amherst nonprofit organization Opportunities for Communities Inc. (OFC), has led the charge to install solar panels in an extraordinary Haitian school and thereby provide reliable electricity there for the first time. The solar project will empower such educational breakthroughs as far-reaching computer training and other technical learning. Ross is also the co-chair of our MIE Industry Advisory Board, a guest lecturer for MIE courses last year, and a dedicated volunteer in many other social and educational projects.

With a mission to link learning communities across national boundaries, OfC connects U.S.-based college students and other adult learners with students and teachers in Les Cayes, Haiti.

According to a fine article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Ross, an aerospace systems project engineer at United Technologies Aerospace Systems in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, envisioned the Haitian project and rallied co-workers to win a competitive Green Initiative Mini Grant from his company.

“Please join me in thanking and congratulating Marty for his outstanding volunteer work,” said MIE Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty. “Quoting from the article, it was indeed true to the spirit of ‘we are all one.’” 

As the Gazette article went on to explain, “Students attending classes in Les Cayes, Haiti, are experiencing something new this summer — reliable electric power in their classrooms, thanks to solar panels installed this year by Amherst nonprofit Opportunities for Communities Inc. In addition to powering necessities such as lights and fans, the panels will make possible computer training, sewing classes, and evening community activities — all previously unattainable due to the unreliable power grid.”

In January of 2018, Ross and OfC President Doug Albertson helped a team of Les Cayes residents install the system. The Gazette piece noted that the school was immediately able to activate previously unpowered fans, bringing welcome relief to students and teachers in hot, stuffy classrooms.

“The solar panels were installed at Maranatha School in the Simon neighborhood of Les Cayes,” said the Gazette. “For almost two decades, school headmaster Amos Filius has succeeded in teaching hundreds of children while having very few resources, achieving academic success far above the national standard. Now, reliable electricity will empower his students to reach even higher.”

Next, according to the Gazette, OfC and the Haitian team hope to expand the solar electricity system to run a freezer in the kitchen and an electric pump for the school’s water well. After that, they hope to add a computer learning center and sewing machines for occupational training classes.

The Haitian solar project is only one of many successful attempts by Ross at social and educational advocacy. As Ross wrote to Krishnamurty in July, “I hope some of the readers take interest in what’s happening with some of our less fortunate neighbors down south. It is my goal to bring a stem program to Haiti and train future engineers to study in the U.S. I am writing you from Puerto Rico, where I am working with FEMA to install and test emergency pumping stations for flood control here.” 

In addition to all his volunteer work in the Caribbean and for his alma mater, Ross in 2016 succeeded in convincing the American Society of Engineers (ASME) to designate Pratt & Whitney's R-1340 Wasp A engine as an historic engineering landmark, recognizing its technical significance in engineering and aviation.

See Pratt & Whitney YouTube video »
See Pratt & Whitney press release »

According to the Pratt & Whitney YouTube video, Ross was fascinated with the development of the Wasp air-cooled engine. “So much so that Marty has been working on getting [ASME] to designate the R1340 as an engineering landmark,” the video said.

See related article

The College of Engineering and MIE are justly proud of all our dedicated, idealistic, and socially conscious alumni, like Marty Ross, who have spread out in a technological diaspora to engineer a better world because “we are all one.” (July 2018)