Bright Ideas from Bright Young Minds

March 23, 2015

A coalition of great minds is presently hard at work to alleviate barriers to education for photo 8millions of children around the globe. Who are these brilliant thinkers working to make the world more just and education more accessible? Ivy league professors…think tank scholars….or researchers funded by wealthy philanthropists, perhaps? Try again.

The group we’re speaking about are middle and high school students in Colorado, Canada, Uganda, and the Dominican Republic who are networked together and meeting regularly via Skype to explore technological solutions to a very real problem: lighting. In many developing countries, reliable electricity is not a commodity that can be regularly expected to power homes and schools, creating safety concerns and other challenges. With limited electricity access, adequate lighting for children to read and study at night is often not available.

Through the One Million Lights project, students from Preston Middle School (Fort Collins, CO) and Riverview High School (New Brunswick, Canada) are merging their ideas and talents to develop rechargeable lanterns for under-resourced communities. The Canadian students are specializing in the electronic components, while the Colorado students are designing and prototyping the plastic lantern cases using 3D printers. The objective is to perfect the lantern and make the circuitry and case designs available as an open-source file that can be replicated anywhere in the world.

photoTo test their lanterns and gather field research, the students have enlisted the help of their peers. Through partnerships with an orphanage in Uganda and a school in the Dominican Republic, students in those countries are receiving the lantern prototypes and then providing their product reviews and cultural insights back to the students in Colorado and Canada in order to improve the functionality of the lanterns.

Some people may ask why the US and Canadian schools don’t just purchase existing lantern products that perform similarly and ship them abroad? While probably easier for everyone involved, it would do very little to inspire and engage our next generation of inventors, problem solvers and innovators. By presenting students with the difficult and daunting challenge of bringing greater access to education to children around the world, they are given an opportunity early in life to explore big ideas needed to address big problems using technology, which is the real purpose of the One Million Lights project.

Preston Middle School’s participation in the One Million Lights program is supported with funding from the OtterCares Foundation’s annual G3 employee giving campaign. The OtterCares Foundation is proud to partner with this innovative educational opportunity that is preparing students to become humanitarians in their future career pursuits.