2nd Hand Container Turned to Library: "Tech for Development" Carbon Neutral Learning Center @ Cambodia

Family photo of the service team ❤


With the support of Office of Service Learning(OSL) at PolyU, 13 teammates and I done a service project at Kampong Speu in Cambodia. The service project is building a learning center at a primary school based on a second-hand container. As a student-initiated service project, there are a lot of differences between this kind of projects and traditional Service Learning(SL) subjects.

A short video about our project and the trip

Who Are We? What Did We Do?


Tech4D stands for “Technology For Development”, it is a self-initiated service programme that planned and implemented by students. Each year, many PolyU alumni, undergraduate students who had joined SL subjects and students from other universities join this programme.

Our Team

The whole team is divided into 3 small groups:

  1. Solar Panel and Ventilation Team
  2. Internal Furniture Team
  3. Water Collection Team

As a part of solar panel and ventilation team, my group consists of 4 people:

Solar panel and ventilation team

What Is Our Project This Year?

Our project includes:

  • Solar panel system for container: install 12 solar panels as electrical input of the learning center with 12V voltage.
  • Ventilation for container: we use 6 12V 0.7A ceiling fans
  • Lighting for container: 6 lights are installed
  • Ventilation for another existing classroom: we use 6 12V 0.5A fans installed on walls
  • Indoor wiring for container and classroom
  • Earthing the container to the earth

Indoor wiring design for the learning center

Indoor wiring design for the learning center

Indoor wiring design for the classroom. We use a pipe-made framework to hang the fans on the ceiling. But the real implementation is different

A module of solar panels. We use 4 modules of solar panels to install 12 panels on the roof

Outdoor wiring design to connect 12 solar panels together to the controllers indoor

Entrance of the learning center

Solar panels on the roof of the container

Our team with Dr Stephan Chan and Dr Grace Ngai

Controllers and input display

Fans and lights in the learning center

Learning center at night

We are talking to local people how to use the learning center

Teacher of the primary school try the switch

Project Reflection


In my opinion, Tech4D 2017 project has following characters:

Flat-structured Management

There is no clear structure in the team. There is no teachers that who can help students make decisions, or leaders who will in charge of a specific part of the project. People discussed together and made decisions together, everyone can feel that they are important.

In the meantime, this structure will lower the efficiency of the team. Especially when there are some opinion differences between teammates.

Most of teammates in the team are recommended to join this project by their friends who already joined or teachers who work for OSL. So each member already knows someone in the team and we can choose which group to join by ourselves. Thus, people in a group are normally friends or someone that have mutual friends with his/her friends of other group mates.

This is a very significant difference from SL subject where people in the same group don't know each other and their personality may vary a lot. Comparing to SL subject, this “recommended members selection mechanism” decreases the conflicts in groups and most of members in Tech4D have very good experience when collaborating with others.


Our project is mainly about the learning center and most of time we were doing engineering tasks. It is exactly what we planned before we went to Cambodia, but the problem brought by our engineering-driven tasks is that we don't have lots of chances to learn more from local people. We only talked with local people casually which is hard for us to learn their difficulties deeply and learn more about their lives.

Technical Issues

Tools’ Management

It's very common that someone can't find the tool he/she want on site. We don't have a special place to store all tools and we don't know who are in charge of different tools. The management problem for tools restricts our efficiency and leads to loss of tools.

In conclusion, Tech4D is a successful student-initiated service project. We satisfied some needs of the local villagers and finished all planned tasks in only 5 working days. If I can get chance, I'm very willing to go back to Kampong Speu again for reviewing the usage situation of the facilities and serving more.