Past the Darkness
The Roshnee Kit shows light to a whole generation of Bangladeshi students lost in darkness.
Putting thought to paper is an art while turning these thoughts into reality is an achievement. That is exactly what Rishad Ahmed, a young graduate of the Dhaka University did - turning his positive approach to life into an idea that is now benefitting hundreds of students from remote villages across Bangladesh.
Rishad hails from Narayongonj. His idea of the Roshnee Kit was a result of a long struggle with studying in poor light because of electricity shortage. As a primary student he experienced darkness for hours as he staggered to keep pace with his curriculum. But, instead of losing hope, he turned his despair into motivation that fueled the invention of the groundbreaking Roshnee Kit, a device that produces electricity by transforming chemical energy from bio-convertible substrate.
The Roshnee Kit project became famous when Rishad, along with his team, presented the idea at the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, an investment platform that provides social entrepreneurs with an opportunity to think and implement ideas that can improve society. Out of the 600 projects submitted from over 50 countries, Rishad’s Roshnee Kit made it to the semifinals.
Though the project did not win the competition, it was promoted by Dell across the world through its consumer learning program. The kit received attention from likeminded individuals, helping it to become a catalyst for change.
What led Rishad to invest his time and effort in the kit was the growing number of school dropouts who couldn’t pursue their studies because they didn’t have electricity. Only a few students in rural areas could make it to college while the majority quit after secondary level.
Most villages in Bangladesh are off the electricity grid because of their location. The residents of such villages use generators that are run on cheap fuel. These generators do not produce sufficient electricity and cause problems for everyone, especially students who can’t study after dark. In areas where electricity is available, power breakdowns are frequent while the means for alternative sources are very expensive. A large number of students in these remote villages study at night in the light of kuppi, a kerosene lamp that costs about 6.8 Takka per 100 ml. Studying in the dim light of the lamp is difficult and also very costly.
Contributing to the problem are other social factors. Education is an either/or choice where parents have to choose which child will go to school. They see investing in their son’s education as a better option as they can reap a payoff in the future as opposed to educating their daughters. Therefore, the number of girls dropping out of school is 36 percent greater than boys.
Rishad’s endeavours to eliminate this hindrance to education started from the areas of Narayongonj, Subdi and Alinagar. Along with his peers, Rishad took on the Roshnee Kit project to address the electricity problems faced by students who belonged to the remote villages of Bangladesh.
The initial phase involved research to gauge the magnitude of the problem and possible ways to resolve it. With Subdi and Alinagar as the focal points of learning, a few additional realities of the areas were also uncovered. The villages suffered from electricity shortage as well as lack of clean water as most of the water bodies were polluted by industrial waste.
A solution emerged when Islam Tapu, a chemical engineer from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, helped Rishad and his team in coming up with a method to create electricity from bacteria. This method was translated into a prototype known as the Roshnee Kit.
The mechanics of the Roshnee Kit thrive on polluted water and the bacteria that are found in it. When industrial waste is discharged into a water source, the organic waste goes through the natural process of decomposition which produces small amounts of charged particles. These particles become integral to power generation with the help of the Roshnee Kit which allows them to produce electric current.
The amount of current produced with the help of Roshnee Kit can provide about 12 watts of electricity per refill for up to three hours. Unlike other alternative sources of energy, the Roshnee Kit provides an ecofriendly solution with no destructive by-products, not even carbon dioxide, formed during the conversion.
The kit offers an affordable solution with a cost bracket of up to $4, including the costs of a frame, a salt bridge, wires, two one-liter bottles, a pair of electrodes and a bulb to go with it. Initially, the idea was to provide 800 to 900 kits to families in remote villages in collaboration with an NGO and the Rural Service Department. However, Rishad, who now runs a marketing blog called Rishadology, believes that the kit can be improved to make it more useful. He wants to spread the Roshnee Kit to all remote villages of Bangladesh that do not fall on the grid, so that the students there have a simple and affordable way to study, especially at night.
With Roshnee Kit, many students will be able to see glimpses of their bright future way past the darkness that poses a threat to their dreams.