School in a Box deploys solar power for education in Africa

20 Feb 2012

School in a Box and its contents

Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT) researchers have pioneered a unique, solar-powered solution that is aiming to revolutionise education in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 90pc of the population don’t have electricity.

South African Ambassador to Ireland A J D Ndou this morning launched the School in a Box innovation in Dublin.

Researchers at IADT in Dún Laoghaire developed School in a Box.

According to the researchers, the School in a Box is highly reinforced, but takes on the size and appearance of an average carry-on wheelie case.

The case itself contains a solar panel and battery that can charge an iPad 2 that’s pre-loaded with a locally customised curriculum. The School in a Box also contains a projector and speakers. The solar panel weighs just more than 2kg and folds down to the size of a sheet of A4 paper, they said.

The aim is to bring classrooms in sub-Saharan Africa into the digital age, said the students at IADT this morning.

So what’s the plan for School in a Box? Fifteen units will initially be deployed for three rural schools in South Africa by the Cape Peninsula Institute of Technology (CPUT). The order will be shipped from Ireland next week.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between IADT and CPUT. This MoU will provide for back-up training and development for each location that uses the School in a Box. Irish company BPI Telecom has also reached a global distribution agreement for School in a Box.

The IADT researchers themselves are currently engaged in the institute’s FÍS programme for schools, community and development, based on the power of digital storytelling.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic