Lex­ing­ton Park Ro­tary and stu­dents team up to light the way

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A re­cent “Solar Suit­case” project spear­headed by the Ro­tary Club of Lex­ing­ton Park sup­ported three key Ro­tary goals.

Nearly 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple on our planet lack elec­tric­ity, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from the Ro­tary Club. This con­di­tion di­rectly fu­els il­lit­er­acy and poverty. Among its goals, Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional is com­mit­ted to world­wide ed­u­ca­tion, lit­er­acy and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment.

St. Mary’s sum­mer stu­dents re­ceived ex­po­sure to sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics as they as­sem­bled and tested the com­pact Solar Suit­cases. The com­pleted suit­cases are be­ing shipped to Kenya, to light schools and or­phan­ages in re­mote ar­eas. These ar­eas have no elec­tri­cal ser­vice.

Each stand­alone Solar Suit­case can in­de­pen­dently gen­er­ate and de­liver sus­tained elec­tri­cal power for low wattage light­ing or for charg­ing cell phones or lap­top com­put­ers. Each ruggedi­zed unit in­te­grates a solar panel, a spe­cial­ized charge con­troller switches, and a bat­tery.

The pi­lot sum­mer “Solar Suit­case” pro­gram grew from an on­go­ing part­ner­ship be­tween the Ro­tary Club of Lex­ing­ton Park and the St. Mary’s pub­lic school sys­tem to ex­pose high school and mid­dle school stu­dents to greater op­por­tu­ni­ties in life. The Ro­tary Club was able to jus­tify a match­ing grant from the Ro­tary District 7620, which cov­ers Cen­tral Mary­land, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Bal­ti­more. To­gether, these part­ners funded three Solar Suit­cases from the non­profit cor­po­ra­tion We Care Solar.

Sala Qazi, a Lex­ing­ton Park Ro­ta­ian and pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing from the Polytech­nic In­sti­tute in New York, led four stu­dents from Great Mills High School in the early sum­mer. In this ini­tial pro­gram, as­pir­ing engi­neer­ing stu­dents as­sem­bled, tested and dis­as­sem­bled a Solar Suit­case.

These se­nior high school stu­dents then served as men­tors later in the sum­mer for a group of re­cent Spring Ridge Mid­dle School grad­u­ates. These en­ter­ing Great Mills fresh­men as­sem­bled, com­pletely tested, en­er­gized and packed two Solar Suit­cases for ship­ment. Qazi noted that the ap­pli­ca­tions can range from pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity to emer­gency med­i­cal care, to charg­ing elec­tronic de­vices such as cell phones and lap­tops. These de­vices can also pro­vide life-sav­ing for power med­i­cal de­vices in re­mote or dis­as­ter rid­den ar­eas.

Qazi was as­sisted by John La­chovic of the Great Mills fac­ulty and sup­ported by Charles Dun­bar and Rhonda Mor­gan, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals; AnnaBelle San­ders, af­ter school pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor; and Ty­rone Bell, foot­ball coach.

Linda Ly­mas, a former Great Mills High School prin­ci­pal and the club’s pres­i­dent, noted that the Ro­tary Club plans to “ex­plore ex­pand­ing the scope and du­ra­tion of the pro­gram in the near fu­ture.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

The Great Mills High School and Spring Ridge Mid­dle School “Solar Suit­case” stu­dents pose with their in­struc­tors and lead­ers upon project com­ple­tion.

A Lex­ing­ton Park Ro­tary Club mem­ber helps a stu­dent as­sem­ble a “Solar Suit­case.”

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