Solar Power Brings Science To African Schools

Lack of access to plentiful electricity can make life challenging in a million ways in developing countries – including in teaching science in rural schools. To address this and give students access to IT and other modern teaching methods, Professor Tony Rest, a visiting chemistry professor at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and Keith Wilkinson, formerly a teacher at the International School at Lusaka in Zambia, have devised a solar-powered solution based on a digital projector and low-cost solar energy panels.

This means, essentially, solar-powered digital projectors – technology that sounds simple enough, until you consider that most such projectors require 200-300 watts of electricity to operate, making them nonstarters even in the rural villages fortunate enough to have a solar power system. Rest’s and Wilkinson’s innovation lies in the use of mini-projectors, which require only about 50 watts of power, making battery powered projection feasible.

solar classroom, africa

image via Shutterstock

The solar energy system they’ve devised, which consists of solar panels, batteries and inverters, can easily be linked to the projector, offering teachers and students access to multimedia resources that illustrate laboratory experiments and practical techniques for science studies. All of which presents myriad possibilities to Rest said in the university’s outline of the project.

“These experiences can be extended to other science subjects from physics, biology and maths,” Rath said, “to subjects involving practical elements, such as engineering, and to craft subjects, including plumbing, carpentry, and catering, where students need to see how to acquire skills.” Rest added that by extending the breadth of subjects benefiting from the use of IT, the overall cost of using a solar energy generator is reduced.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.