Lexington Park Rotary and students team up to light the way
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.”
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.”