Every year, our CAPS students have the opportunity to give back through community service and volunteerism to make a difference in Omaha. Just recently this contribution has been expanded to those in need throughout the country and even the world. An anonymous donor met with our CAPS team and expressed an interest in donating portable solar units from We Care Solar that can be used for lighting or electricity. This comes in response to requests for solar electricity from primary health centers, We Care Solar designed a compact solar electric system that was portable and fit in a suitcase. The “We Care Solar Suitcase” powers overhead LED lighting, charges cell phones, and includes LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries. The first deployment of these systems occurred in June 2009. Since then, these systems have been introduced in more than 20 counties for use in health care and emergency response: in Haiti, to aid medical relief teams after the 2010 earthquake; in Liberia, where we first worked with the World Health Organization in 2011; in Uganda, where we first partnered with AMREF and Safe Mothers, Safe Babies; in the Philippines, in response to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013; and in Nepal, after the 2015 earthquake.
These solar units are critical in areas where these necessities are unavailable either because of emergency situations or where it was never available before. We were thrilled to be able to have such a unique opportunity where our students could learn, build and assemble these kits. Our CAPS students are able to be involved at three different levels. First, the solar suitcases come unassembled so they are tasked with building the units while learning about basic electronics and science of solar power. Once this first step is complete, this sets the units up to provide appropriate lighting and/or power for needed application. Second, we will develop an awareness and understanding of where power challenges exist as well as where portable power would solve a temporary or long-term need. Finally, we learn about areas that would benefit greatly from these solar kits and help choose where they will go.
Our generous gift of our ten portable We Care Solar suitcases arrived just a few weeks ago. Lee Kallstrom, our CAPS STEM Facilitator did an intensive 3-day training in Arizona and returned to teach our students how to successfully build and test each kit. The first complete assembly went very well and helped us all understand the process and time commitment to finish a kit. This dovetailed perfectly into our planned Schoolwide Enrichment Models (SEM) week we had have at Westgate Elementary school. For several years, we have been asked by Westgate Elementary to bring a group of our CAPS students and be paired with their kids for a week of learning and activity. We had an energetic group of 3rd through 6th graders who we met with for the week. With a combination of educational videos, games and instructions, the building of our second portable solar kit began! It wasn’t until the last minutes on our last day, when the assembly was complete and the power light went on -we knew we had a winner! The students (all of them) were so proud to be a part of such an important and fun project.
This innovative educational program of We Care Solar provides students with an opportunity to link science and technology with international humanitarian service. We Share Solar empowers students to be global changemakers. By combining solar energy and engineering education with real-world applicability, trained teachers cultivate students’ interests in STEM subjects and inspire them to meet an immediate need in the developing world. We are grateful for this incredible opportunity and so thankful to our special donor for sharing this project with us!