INDEX: Solar Classroom in a Box doesn't look like much, but is transforming schools in Africa
TreeHugger is covering the INDEX: Design to Improve Life awards at the end of August; this post covers one of the 46 finalists chosen from 1,123 entries.
Many of the submissions to the INDEX awards are individual designs, discrete products. The Solar Classroom in a Box is different; it's also not a classroom and it's not a box. Aleutia is a UK company that makes a teensy fanless computer with no moving parts and very low power consumption. They package it with everything one needs to make it run in a rural classroom, from solar panels down to patch cords, with components that can be assembled by a handyman in a day.
Compact enough to fit in the back of a pick-up truck, the kit includes sturdy low-power computers, monitors and projectors all designed to resist the tough climate conditions. The computers also offer Wikipedia for Schools including 6,000 offline articles curated for educational use. In addition, the kit provides quality panels, charge controllers, batteries and all cabling. All equipment has been field-tested in rural Africa over the years and the integrated solar system is optimized for the computers and enables rapid, reliable deployment.
They do have a sexy design for a shipping container classroom that would have got a lot more exposure than the basic system; every design site loves shipping containers. Instead they have concentrated on supplying systems that have been deployed to over 180 rural schools in 10 developing countries.
Founder Mike Rosenberg tells an interesting story of volunteering to set up a computer lab for street children in Ghana back in 2006. They broke down quickly as fans got clogged, dirty and unreliable power made them undependable. So he came back to London and designed a computer with no moving parts, no fans, a forgiving power supply, with every component selected for durability and dependability. It's not pretty and it's not the only one of its kind in the world, but put together with the full solar classroom in a box, it has "been deployed to over 180 rural schools in 10 developing countries, "transforming education in remote areas and empowering thousands of students and teachers."
That's certainly worth recognizing.