USD Graduates Engineer a Brighter Sudan for the New Year

Jan 03, 2013, 07:00 ET from University of San Diego

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly 20 years ago Mou Riiny was forced to flee his village in south Sudan during the civil war there and walk 500 miles to Kenya before coming to the United States. Now he and several other University of San Diego engineering graduates have returned to install a solar power system and bring electricity to the village for the first time.

The six-kilowatt system will create a sustainable model that can be repeated for villages throughout the developing world. Electricity carries with it a world of benefits for rural communities, including the alleviation of poverty, illiteracy and opportunities for entrepreneurship. "It will power charging stations so people can charge batteries, laptops and cell phones," said Riiny, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who resettled in Boston before attending USD to study electrical  engineering.

Riiny and several other students designed the system for their senior project before graduating in 2011. Political, safety and other issues have complicated the installation but in late December USD graduates Michael Rios, now studying at the University of Wisconsin, and Emmett Perl, now studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara, traveled some 6,500 miles to meet Riiny in Sudan and complete the $70,000 project. The entire USD campus community, along with San Diego businesses, became involved in the effort, contributing funds and materials.

Following the arrival of the materials for the project last fall, the village and the entire region "is filled with excitement that I cannot capture in words," Riiny said. 

The village of Thiou has a population about 400. It is located in the Warrap State in Southern Sudan, about 400 miles northwest of Juba, the country's largest city. Rios and Perl will return to the U.S. on Jan. 10.

USD has been recognized as a Changemaker campus by Ashoka, the global association of the world's leading social entrepreneurs. "Changemakers work to resolve social problems and engineers strive to solve technical problems," said Kathleen Kramer, chair of USD's Engineering Programs. "This project brought together these two missions in an extraordinary way and the team of students has shown relentless dedication in bringing light to the school in Thiou."

Photos from Thiou and delivery of the solar materials are available by contacting The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning. For more information go to


CONTACT: Liz Harman, +1-619-260-4682,

SOURCE University of San Diego