SEATTLE, Washington — At 8 years old, Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz developed a solar-powered water heater for low-income communities in her hometown in Chiapas, Mexico 2018. The now 10-year-old has been competing in science fairs since she was four and wanted to put her knowledge to work. She created her heater out of bottles and plastic, only needing the power of the sun as an energy source. The solar heater can heat water up to 40 degrees Celsius and has a capacity of 10 liters.
In Chiapas, Mexico, 70% of the population live in impoverished conditions. In the state, 28 districts are ranked at the bottom of the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Index for Mexico. These districts are mostly populated by indigenous people who are often illiterate and do not speak Spanish.
Cruz’s Work with Dr. Neín Farrera
Around 30% of the impoverished in Chiapas, Mexico, live where many could not afford traditional water heaters. That is how Cruz came up with the “Baño Calientito” (warm bath), a project that she initially worked with her father. They installed the solar panels on the roof of their house. In an interview with the news channel Imagen in Mexico, Cruz stated: “People won’t have to chop down trees to heat their water anymore.” Cruz then requested the help of Dr. Neín Farrera from the Universidad del Valle de México Campus Tuxtla to continue with the development of her solar heater.
Farrera formed a group of students majoring in Engineering and Sustainable Development to help continue developing Cruz’s invention. With their help, the heater was able to elevate in temperature to 70 degrees Celsius and increase the capacity to 65 liters. The overall price of the heater is MXN $700, or around $30. However, if the person requesting a solar heater provides some of the recycled materials necessary for its construction, it can greatly decrease the cost. Furthermore, Farrera added that they are actively working to make the heater available to more people.
Recognition for Cruz
The Nuclear Sciences Institute at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) took notice of Cruz. UNAM is the largest and most prestigious university in Mexico and Latin America. Cruz became the first child to receive the Institute of Nuclear Science Recognition for Women for her invention. Normally, only adults have received the award.
Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz surprized Chiapas with her solar heater invention. Thanks to her ingenuity, more people can access hot water. This can go a long way in improving sanitation conditions in poverty-stricken areas like Chiapas, Mexico. Not only can Cruz’s invention help her own community but it can assist deforested and developing countries like Haiti.
– Merlina San Nicolás Leyva