For ten weeks, Sarah joined the Intelligent Grids group at the Universidad de Chile’s Centro de Energía (Energy Center) in their work on the Huatacondo project. Huatacondo is a small, isolated village located in Chile’s Atacama Desert where, in 2009, the Center began work on Latin America’s first electrical microgrid. Incorporating a diesel generator, a battery bank, and an array of solar panels to take advantage of the desert’s plentiful sunlight, the grid provided Huatacondo with 24/7 power for the first time. Sarah worked on developing an application that would provide live data about the grid’s operation to village residents and empower them to make informed decisions about their energy usage.
During her internship, Sarah not only learned about software development and computer networking, but also about the culture and way of life of Huatacondo. She was able to travel to the village for three days with the Intelligent Grids group, during which time she tested her application, assisted with grid maintenance, and met and interacted with many local residents. She says, “I found the experience of traveling to Huatacondo extremely rewarding because it gave me an opportunity to see up close not only the operation of the grid, but also the way people live in this isolated and tight-knit community.”
But Sarah’s MISTI experience involved so much more than work. She traveled around Chile with other MISTI students as well as new friends, exploring the desert in the north, Patagonia in the south, the Andes mountains to the east, and the coast to the west. She vastly improved her Spanish and learned a lot about Chilean culture and politics through spending time with coworkers, whether at lunch, at barbecues in the park, or at a soccer game. Her living community enabled her to make lasting friendships with students from around the world, including Spain, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.