Solar-powered backpack aiming to bring education to millions

20 Jan 2015

Salima Visram with Kenyan schoolchildren and the Soular Backpack. Image via Indiegogo/Salima Visram

A crowdfunded solar-powered backpack project is aiming to give millions of impoverished children the ability to study at night by letting them control their own power supplies.

The brainchild of Kenyan student Salima Visram, the Soular Backpack surpassed its Indiegogo target of US$40,000 by as much as US$10,000 yesterday and now aims to begin the manufacturing and distribution of the clean-energy mobile power supply.

The design and concept is rather simple, with a standard school backpack familiar to many, with the obvious addition of a small solar panel at its front to allow its batteries to recharge while the children go on their long walks to and from school in the blaze of sunshine they encounter on a daily basis.

When they come home after a long day, they can then plug their backpack into a LED lamp and have enough power to read and write through the night.

Reducing number of kerosene lamp deaths

Visram explains on her Indiegogo page the US$40,000 will allow her to produce 2,000 Soular Backpacks for a trial run in her native village, Kikambala, where 90pc of its residents have no access to electricity.

If this proves to be successful, Visram hopes to then expand the model to more than 100 schools in the east African country.

According to the International Electricity Agency (IEA), more than 1.3bn people across the world out of a population of 7bn have no access to electricity.

In these Kenyan villages, many children are left with no other choice but to use kerosene lamps to study at night, which leads to more than 4,000 people dying every day from its effects, according to the World Bank.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic