In rural and developing areas of Africa, communities experience a lack of comforts often taken for granted in other parts of the world. For example, access to energy and adequate lighting is considered a luxury in certain communities. However, it is common knowledge that access to the amenities such as consistent electricity stimulates communities, allows for better access to education, and raises the overall quality of life.
To help encourage these struggling areas, undergraduate students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, School of Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineering, designed and built a portable, reasonably priced solar photovoltaic lamp that is suitable for rural households. The lamp also has additional features including an AM/FM radio and the capability to charge mobile devices. In future models, the lamp will also include a miniature multimedia device.
The students collaborated with advisor Edward Chikuni and the Family Literary Project, a non-profit organization focusing on education and literacy in rural areas of Africa, to create a working prototype. Their lamp was first used at Qalimfundo Primary School, a local public school that agreed to provide working feedback of their prototype. Project volunteers learned valuable design skills through hands-on, real-life experience all while serving their communities through engineering.
With greater access to light, communication, and education, children have a greater ability to improve and practice reading skills, increasing literacy rates. The team hopes that their lamp will empower students to pursue educational opportunities and in time, improve their local communities.