Sustainable Energy For Science Classes in Developing Countries

In order to overcome the obstacles faced by teachers working with science subjects in developing countries, one chemistry academic turned to sustainable energy for a solution. Professor Tony Rest, a visiting Chemistry academic at the University of Southampton in the UK, and Keith Wilkinson, a former teacher at the International School at Lusaka in Zambia, have devised a solar-powered solution based on a digital projector and low-cost solar energy panels so that students can gain access to IT and other technology-based teaching methods.

The objective is to bypass the main problem peoples in rural areas face: lack of electricity and running water, which outstrip lack of equipment, chemicals and facilities.

“The lack of electricity is a particularly serious matter for rural schools and this situation is unlikely to get better in the near to medium future. With drawbacks to petrol generators, due to difficulties in getting supplies and safety hazards, solar energy generators have become available at cost-effective prices and provide a sustainable answer as rural schools have an abundance of the basic energy source required to power them – sunshine,” said Professor Rest.

The advent of more energy efficient equipment has made the use of solar feasible possible. These days, data/video projectors require 50 watts of power, down from 200-300 watts, previously. This lower voltage level can be sustained with solar power. The solar systems (panels, batteries and inverters) can be linked to the projector for students so they can get practical classes with multimedia resources to show lab experiments and practical techniques.

“These experiences can be extended to other science subjects from physics, biology and maths, to subjects involving practical elements, such as engineering, and to craft subjects, including plumbing, carpentry, and catering, where students need to see how to acquire skills. By extending the breadth of subjects benefiting from the use of IT, the overall cost of using a solar energy generator is reduced. Another spin-off is that students in rural schools gain access to valuable IT skills,” added Professor Rest.

The project has been developed by the ‘Chemistry Aid’ project, the Chemistry Video Consortium based at the University of Southampton, with support from the Royal Society of Chemistry, which has provided multimedia teaching resources.

Image credit: University of Southampton