Past the Dark­ness

The Rosh­nee Kit shows light to a whole gen­er­a­tion of Bangladeshi stu­dents lost in dark­ness.

Southasia - - INNOVATION BANGLADESH - By Zu­fah An­sari The writer is a mar­ket­ing stu­dent with a strong in­ter­est in cul­ture and so­ci­ety.

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.

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