Affordable internet for off-grid locations wins ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award
14, Dec, 2021
EDMONTON, Dec. 14, 2021 – A former team of NAIT students has won the Capstone Project of the Year Award for a concept to provide cost-effective internet access to off-grid and remote communities where internet and power are lacking. The award is given out annually by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET).
Seven finalist teams competed for the award, representing the best of the best in the province. The award itself was established by ASET in 2017 in response to overwhelming member interest in Capstone Projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students from NAIT, SAIT, Red Deer College, and Lethbridge College as part of their end-of-program requirements.
The cross-discipline NAIT project involved former alternative energy technology (ALTE) students Jacob Maxwell, Natasha Bergstrom-Baier and Abdallah Farah teaming up with former NAIT wireless systems engineering technology (WSET) students Steven Sager and Spencer Tracy to develop and comprehensively test their system concept.
The concept uses a wirelessly distributed Starlink-based solution with a custom solar battery power supply for off-grid use. Starlink is a broadband internet system produced by Elon Musk's company, SpaceX, that is launching thousands of satellites to build the Starlink internet relay mega-constellation in low-earth orbit. By utilizing a Starlink user terminal as the core of a wireless internet service provider network, the concept can provide internet access to many people in a small village area.
Not only important for social connection, entertainment and exposure to news and information, internet availability has also been proven to support economic growth in remote communities where it is introduced. The former NAIT team’s concept offers benefits, not the least of which is its affordability compared to existing options.
“We estimated that the material cost of using our concept’s system in remote but sun rich parts of the world is less than $10,000,” said Maxwell. “That is far less expensive than the cost of building and maintaining an electrical and internet grid infrastructure in those locations.”
“In ASET’s view, all seven finalists have presented Capstone Award-worthy projects,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “The sustainable satellite internet project was unique in that it involved two different engineering technology disciplines. It is highly portable and easy to deploy in different locations, and has tremendous potential to help people worldwide.”
ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award finalists
Making the world a better place whether by averting the spread of COVID-19, focusing on green solutions or even adding fiber to concrete’s diet was a predominant theme in all of the Capstone Project of the Year Award finalist projects.
The COVIDIAN, a one-stop, health self-assessment kiosk was invented by former NAIT biomedical engineering technology students. Ideal for settings susceptible to outbreaks or transmission of COVID-19 (e.g. airports, retirement homes), the COVIDIAN has radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors that can scan ID cards, measure body temperatures.
Former SAIT electrical engineering technology students found a way to retrofit an industrial boiler to be more cost- and energy-efficient so that it’s less of a contributor to global warming. Former SAIT chemical laboratory technology students innovated a new technique for extracting cobalt from its source materials that is efficient, affordable and sustainable.
Former Lethbridge College civil engineering technology students investigated adding polypropylene fibers to concrete without rebar reinforcement to determine if those fibers would protect the concrete from conditions that would cause it to crack or deteriorate.
Red Deer Polytechnic
Former Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP) engineering technology students devised a clip-type mounting system for solar panels that can be assembled far more easily and quickly than your average piece of IKEA furniture, and installed inexpensively. A second RDP team used solar panels to power a composter to provide hands-free, year-round composting.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 16,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET