Starting in 1992, the opportunity for students to serve during Spring Break at SonSet Solutions has matured and grown from one week for LeTourneau University into three weeks of projects for multiple colleges.
Students are pleasantly surprised to discover the application of technology in a ministry setting, and for many, their introduction to how their own God-given gifts and technical skills can be used to advance the gospel worldwide.
For Scott McConnell, college liaison for SonSet Solutions, the logistics of interacting with students from a new college presents the greatest challenge — numerous logistical details need to be carefully thought through and worked out. Seeing students discover how their gifts and skills can be used in missions — with some making career decisions to become missionaries — is the most rewarding aspect.
Scott is confident that, while not every student feels led to pursue further ministry involvement, the experience serves as the greatest draw to internships and apprenticeships. Ultimately, God continues to use it to increase workers in the “fields that are white already to harvest.”
Spring Break at SonSet Solutions is a team effort each year, and Scott McConnell is very thankful for all SonSet Solutions’ staff and their roles in making it possible.
The SonSetLink™ water monitor for the Design Outreach (DO) LifePump is going through a mechanical redesign. The goal is to significantly improve its reliability. The new design counts the number of shaft rotations through a sensor installed in a plate which is inserted into the pump casing. This allows engineers to know when it is time to do routine maintenance on the pump based on standard wear conditions. A new nylon radome is mounted to the top of the pump which contains the satellite modem used for sending the recorded data to the Internet. Engineers from DePuy Synthes Companies donated their time and talent to Design Outreach to create this new design and even ran a battery of tests on the new design which included exposing the units to high temperatures, submerging them in water, and drop testing them. Design Outreach is expected to test this new design in Haiti later this year.
Cody and Emily Hall will be making an overseas trip to Kenya with a two-fold purpose. First, to install two distinctly different water monitors designed for two different pumps: a solar-powered pump that’s part of a larger water storage and delivery system for a children’s school, and an India Mark II hand pump (the world’s most common water pump) that serves the local community. Second, they will train local Kenyans how to install the water monitors themselves.
These are both applications of SonSet Solutions’ remote monitoring system called SonSetLink™. The solar-powered pump monitor adds a new method of water-level sensing for storage tanks (similar to the level sensor pictured that Cody designed and built for Ecuador) which is critical in balancing water usage with availability, while the India Mark II pump monitor can now sense the presence of water within the pump.
The most challenging aspects of both redesigns are accommodating additional sensor needs, determining what’s easiest to manufacture, maintaining functionality, and keeping overall costs as low as possible.
The team is currently working on a customized SonSetLink™ water monitor for partner ministry Design Outreach’s LifePump™. Looking ahead, challenges include production streamlining and additional testing. Praise the Lord that more than 300 water monitors have been shipped in the last three to four years. We are hoping to ship many more, ensuring that the water continues flowing in critical regions all over the world.
When the sun sets, most of us can flip a switch and enjoy instant light, but in many developing countries, sunset means an end to most everything – except sleep. A ruggedly simple device from SonSet Solutions, the Solar Media Center (SMC), is intended to change that and do a lot more!
Designed by our engineers, the SMC’s unique operation is the Central Control Unit. This adaptive unit provides virtual plug-and-play customization and expansion of select devices such as: a bright LED lamp, a smartphone recharging station, a public address (PA) system amplifier, and even devices that simulate a Wi-Fi connection by providing Christian audio-visual media and information accessible by smartphones. This simple way of interconnecting optional, off-the-shelf modules keeps the cost low and allows the user to add or remove devices as needs change or grow. The solar panel also provides a continual source of power. Remote villages without access to electricity can, for example, now provide light for water wells and show the Jesus film via projector – one African church is even using it to hold evening services.
Currently, two units are being field tested in Benin with TWR, and one in Kenya sponsored by a local Indiana church. We have already heard reports of people congregating around the Solar Media Center making use of the various devices, thereby creating a greater sense of community. This is our hope, allowing our ministry partners to provide beneficial services while building relationships and sharing the true Light of Life.
No-one wants meticulous notes made of their failures; but helping protect broadcast equipment designed to communicate the gospel from erratic electrical power is a different story. The Power Data Logger is part of that process – a device monitoring and storing power fluctuation data to help engineers determine how best to stabilize it and keep the gospel message on the air.
Smaller than one foot square, it simply plugs into an electrical wall outlet and begins working. Detailed key data such as power drops, electrical noise, or surges – even lightning strikes – are saved to a Secure Digital (SD) card, and if needed, relayed via satellite to SonSet Solutions’ engineers for monitoring and analysis. Although development has included a partnership with summer interns, the bulk of it was done in-house over the last eight years.
The Power Data Logger exists as a subset of each Equipment Power Protection (EPP) unit and can operate as a standalone device working in the background by being temporarily isolated from the EPP. This enables ministry partners to gather and relay their power data to us, allowing any necessary operational adjustments to be made to the EPP before activation.
Its first use for Pioneer Christian Hospital in the Republic of the Congo provided the answer to their power switching problem; a simple increase in power solved the issue. And it may soon see use in Haiti to help gather power usage there – all for God’s glory by ensuring that the gospel message continues with minimal interruption.
Since 2005, nearly 50,000 SonSet® radios have been shipped to partner ministries around the world. Despite the proliferation of mobile phones in third-world countries, FM radio continues to communicate the gospel to individuals and entire villages alike. But could the now 12-year-old design benefit from a hardware update? The answer comes in the form of our latest upgrade.
In development for over two years, this new model of SonSet radio provides much-needed internal improvements. The radio chip itself is newer, resulting in better overall performance and longer battery life. Circuitry design and embedded software are now done in-house, along with key enhancements to simplify adding a digital media player for a future edition, now in its early stages of development.
The only visible changes to the latest upgrade are the new, simpler function buttons on the front, enabling bidirectional tuning when multiple channels are programmed – a helpful feature allowing the end user to change channels faster and more efficiently.
Multiple partner ministries have expressed the need for an unlimited number to reach thousands with the gospel. Church/volunteer involvement through both fund raising and processing is key, and are two hurdles keeping the gospel from the hands of potential listeners.
If you are interested in helping us expand our reach with SonSet radios, email info@SonSetSolutions.org for more information.
There are now 7.4 billion people on earth and, surprisingly, 7.8 billion mobile device subscriptions. Globally, the net worth of mobile technology exceeds that of radio, television, the internet, personal computers, and landline telephones combined. A recent international media conference revealed that mission organizations around the world are using cell phones for distribution of audio Bibles, discipleship materials, evangelistic films, and Christian media apps.
SonSet Solutions is learning how to use mobile media for God’s kingdom. Social media can interact with an audience in a two-way conversation. MicroSD memory cards, used in many cell phones, can be loaded with Biblical content, and distributed in restricted countries. Even people living off the cell phone grid can download content onto their mobile device using a solar-powered Wi-Fi media server.
Mobile media is a break from our traditional ministry of supplying technology to partners for the advancement of the gospel. We are leveraging new technology for that same goal. Man has created a wonderful opportunity to communicate with the world in unprecedented ways. We can use that same technology to communicate the wonderful message of love and hope in Jesus.
Until recently, outsourcing the assembly of small quantities of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) which use surface mount components was costly. But with the purchase of new Surface-Mount Technology (SMT) equipment, multiple Engineering and Development project test boards can be prototyped in-house, including runs of 50 or even 100.
Though not fabricating the PCBs themselves, a vacuum pen allows placement of tiny SMT components onto the boards where they are held in place using a special paste. The board and components are then placed into a special oven and heated until the paste melts and permanently attaches the components to the PCB.
What used to take six hours now takes 45 minutes, and saves approximately $150 per hour. In addition, the flexibility of prototyping in-house PCBs provides a very practical tool.
Both Equipment Power Protection (EPP) and Water Monitoring have already taken advantage of the new equipment, but any project can benefit, such as the SonSet® radio. Over time, this equipment will more than pay for itself not just in time and funds but in helping to make equipment more efficient in reaching souls for God’s kingdom.