H2GP Comes to the Dominican Republic!
As the Horizon Hydrogen Grand Prix (H2GP) continues to expand around the world, we’re excited to announce the Dominican Republic has joined the growing list of countries taking part.
The launch was made possible due to a collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (Mother and Teacher Pontifical Catholic University) in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
We were lucky enough to catch up with two of the key architects behind the launch, Rafael Batista, Full Time Professor of Electronical Engineering at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, and Carlos Pérez, Director of the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra.
So, Carlos, what’s your favorite thing about the H2GP program?
Carlos: ‘One of the most important things about the H2GP program is that it helps the students understand that while this technology seems to be very distant and far, it’s actually really close to the application point. In the Dominican Republic if somebody mentions something like a ‘hydrogen car’, they’ll probably be thinking about the future, in the United States and other countries there are hydrogen cars on the road. It’s important for us to get involved in education in those areas, especially in High Schools. So we were looking for projects that could take us in this direction. The great thing about this technology is that it's not only didactic, teaching kids about the technology, but also fosters some kind of creative ideas – the students can work and play at the same time’.
‘So we have a lot of students who initially are not very interested in engineering, but who, through this program, became motivated and interested’.
Carlos: ‘One thing we love about H2GP is that the car kit and the equipment focus on an open-ended problem. So it’s not something where you can just look up the answer and give a number, but you’re continually challenged and keep growing.
Fantastic, thanks, Carlos. What other things have you done to promote creativity around engineering as part of the Hydrogen Grand Prix program?
‘We sent out an application form recently to students, asking them if they would be interested in signing up for the H2GP program. We received over 100 responses and we only expected 25, we were overblown by the enthusiasm. One of the questions asked: ‘If you were a superhero whose superpowers are based on renewable energy, what name would you choose for that superhero, what powers would they have, and how would you use them in a car race’? This is something we used to spark motivation in the students and allow them to show how creative they can be. It’s this creativity that will come in handy with when they are racing real-life hydrogen-powered cars!’
Rafael, Professor of Electrical Engineering, adds: ‘This is a great opportunity for us to network with High Schools and it will also help us get kids interested in our academic discipline, building the next generation of innovators and helping them with future career opportunities.
Thanks, Rafael. What about the commercial side? Are you interested in this race to help kids go into future careers in hydrogen?
Carlos: ‘In the Dominican Republic, a lot of companies are looking for engineers. Last week we were in an industrial park in a biomedical engineering hub, and they were explaining to us that they desperately need engineers, and there aren’t many engineering students for these places. These companies are looking to go to schools and promote STEAM education and reach those students who are potential engineers’.
‘Also, in our region, we have a lot of interest in renewable energy. Rafael is currently heading the microgrid lab, so in that area we have a lot of links. For instance, a local company donated part of their science lab to us, and we’re working with a local energy supplier to use this lab and use it to our advantage.’
Rafael: ‘Yes, we have a very active growth in the area of microgrid research. Our labs have been sponsored in part by USAID, we have almost 3000 USD invested in our microgrid lab. Right now part of our work focuses on green hydrogen, so I think that part of our interest in H2GP is to enhance our research capability in electrical mobility and hydrogen's role in this.’
‘So the Hydrogen Grand Prix, for us, is not only a fantastic way to get students interested in renewable energy, but it’s also a great asset for our research activity’.
Carlos: ‘One thing we love about H2GP is that the car kit and the equipment focus on an open-ended problem. So it’s not something where you can just look up the answer and give a number, but you’re continually challenged and keep growing. So students get to spark their creative side and work more on real-world problems. There are some really cool tools the students will use to creatively improve their car, such as 3D printing using computer-aided (CAD) design.
‘We also hope the H2GP program helps expand interested in STEM education in younger kids. One of the ways we’re doing this is through a ‘STEAM Kids’ summer camp with younger students aged 8-12. We find that by the time children reach their teenage years, they can develop some bias against math and science. We hope that by reaching them at an earlier age, we’ll help them gain an interest in science and experience the fun of it before hardened opinions are formed’.