Yampah students make the case for solar energy | PostIndependent.com

Back to: News

Yampah students make the case for solar energy

Submitted photoYampah Mountain High School students build solar suitcases as part of a project sponsored by Solar Energy International and WE CARE, (Women's Emergency Communication And Reliable Electricity). The suitcases are complete photovoltaic solar electric systems that provide energy for lighting and battery charging for communication devices. The suitcases will likely be shipped to Haiti.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Students at Yampah Mountain High School are finding out that a suitcase has many uses.

In coordination with Solar Energy International (SEI) and Women’s Emergency Communication And Reliable Electricity (WE CARE) a group of students at Yampah Mountain High School have been building suitcases that are solar power generators, which will be shipped to Haiti.

The suitcases contain complete solar electric systems that provide lighting and battery charging for communication devices. Students and teachers will learn how to build them, and then the suitcases will be sent to health clinics in the developing world.

The suitcases power overhead LED lighting, charge walkie-talkies and cell phones, and include LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries. The first deployment of these systems occurred in June 2009 and instantly improved working and health conditions in a Nigerian clinic.

The students participating in the Solar Suitcase project are all young mothers whose children attend the daycare provided by the school. This program was a pilot program with Yampah High School students and their teacher Susy Ellison and Advisor Sally Kilton. SEI’s goal is to offer this program to middle and high schools throughout Western Colorado.

“This is exciting for us because the Solar Suitcases were originally intended to make Nigerian health clinics safer for mothers to give birth,” said project coordinator with SEI Soozie Lindbloom.

“SEI is empowering mothers to help mothers,” Lindbloom said. “That’s an educational opportunity in which we are proud to participate.”

WE CARE was founded by Dr. Laura Satchel, an Obstetrician in Berkeley, Calif. whose mission was to promote safe motherhood and reduce maternal morality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting and mobile communication using solar photovoltaic technology.

In 2009, SEI teamed up with WE CARE to develop small portable solar electric lighting and communication systems for health clinics in Nigeria.

The suitcases have proven successful to Nigerian doctors and midwives. Now, WE CARE has partnered with local schools and organizations who want to help make the portable PV Solar Suitcases.

Since implementing this project in Nigeria, the organization has supplied solar suitcases to health clinics in Rwanda and Haiti as well.

It’s a project that Lindbloom is very passionate about.

“I have been teaching about energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to youth for almost a decade,” Lindbloom said. “It has been amazing to see those efforts transform into action, yet there has always been something missing for me.”

Lindbloom said that when she discovered what WE CARE was all about she knew that she had to be involved.

“For me, this partnership allows me to focus on the compassionate side of renewable energy that was too often being overlooked,” she said.

SEI is a non-profit educational organization based in Carbondale whose mission is to help others use renewable energy and sustainable building technologies through educational and technical assistance. The Solar Suitcase program is part of the SEI’s youth education program called Solar In the Schools.

SEI began teaching a high school course encompassing energy education, renewable energy technologies, sustainable building, and altruism, in April. The final course project was to build two Solar Suitcases to be sent to health clinics in the developing world, most likely Haiti.

“The beauty of this project is that not only will it teach our youth about energy use and renewable energy technologies, but it will empower them to make personal choices aimed at helping our local and world ecosystems thrive,” said Lindbloom.