Solar Suitcases: Branson Science Project Deployed in Kenya

Branson recently received word that the “Solar Suitcases” built by students in Peter Z’s Advanced Environmental Science class in 2018 were deployed in Kenya just this month, marking an important milestone of their work. Sometimes it can take a few years for a project to come to fruition - but often they are the most impactful ones! 

So what are “solar suitcases” and why were Branson students building them? 

Solar Suitcases are an easy-to-use, suitcase-sized solar electric system that was designed as a solution to the energy poverty that impairs the work of health facilities in many countries. We Care Solar, the nonprofit behind the Solar Suitcase, invented the technology as a way to promote safe motherhood and reduce maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and medical devices using solar electricity.

In 2018, Peter Z’s Advanced Environmental Science class partnered with We Care Solar to empower Branson seniors with the tools to actually build solar suitcases that could be deployed in communities that need them. The students learned how to put together the entire “suitcase,” which contains solar panels, a charge controller, a battery, four LED medical lights, two headlamps, phone charging equipment and a fetal Doppler (an instrument used to measure the fetal heartbeat.) 

The project proved itself to be at a critical education intersection – it combined hands-on learning with real-world solutions. Students learned everything from how to wire a lightswitch, to the basics of renewable energy, to the context and history behind energy poverty in specific regions, to the power that individuals have to effect social change. 

In December, two Branson-made suitcases were installed in Narok and Ugunja, Kenya, by +254 Solar Energy CBO, a community-based organization for youth empowerment in the Kibera slum near Nairobi. The other Branson-made case was installed in Makueni, Kenya, by WISEE (Women in Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship), an all-female solar installation team. 

We were beyond thrilled to hear that the suitcases built by Branson students are being put to work helping healthcare and educational facilities, and medical workers and teachers, at a time when they need it most. You can read more about energy poverty, We Care Solar, and their partnership with Branson in this article by Nye Day ‘18, recently published in Borgen Magazine