Making Connections to Improve Lives

Feb82013

The energy was obvious and the connections were working on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the Tech Museum in San Jose, CA … both as 40 students worked in teams to build “We Share Solar Suitcases” and when the switch was flipped on their creations to generate electricity to power a 100-watt light bulb.  Best yet, the students knew that the suitcase they engineered would power the first lights for schools and orphanages in Africa.

The service project coordinated by Tech Museum staff and co-founders of We Care Solar – a nonprofit organization bringing light, power and hope to health facilities in regions without reliable electricity – attracted middle and high school students from a local community center and from interested Girl Scout troops. Participants spent the morning learning about energy poverty, sustainable development, and how circuits work before assembling and testing the complete solar electric system that fits inside a suitcase for ease of use and transport.  Eventually, each suitcase was hauled up to the Museum roof to be energized by the sun and monitored via a charge controller LCD display.  
Before wrapping up the day and closing the suitcase, the Silicon Valley students wrote notes to the students in Uganda and the youth orphaned or displaced by civil war in Sierra Leone who will benefit from the new sources of light for their schools.  

Photo credit: Don Feria.

The Applied Materials Foundation was pleased to support Tech Laureate, We Care Solar, as they developed the curriculum and beta tested their project during the community service activity. As co-founder, Hal Aronson, explained the We Share Solar serves youth twice ... first as an educational experience for American youth and second as a renewable power and lighting system for youth in parts of the world that lack electricity.  The We Share Solar educational program creates human and electrical connections to improve lives around the world.

To learn more about the We Care Solar, check out the PBS News Hour segment featuring their work.