Hayward students invention will help power schools in Africa

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- It's the result of a long class project for these Hayward seventh graders that's proving to be a lesson in science is and a lesson in life.

They built blue boxes that store energy from the sun during the day that can power these LED light bulbs at night.

"We learned lots of new things I never knew I would ever do," said Marisol Barajas, a seventh grader.

"I mean this is something that they're building, something that they're creating, and when the lights come on, it's that satisfaction that they're saying this is something I've done," explained Cesar Chavez Middle School Principal Sean Moffatt.

Called the solar suitcase, it is a hands-on engineering project, which already makes it a special treat for the students. But they say just as exciting is who this project will help now that it's complete.

It's off to Uganda, where 80 percent of kids in Eastern Africa, do not have light. That means high school students, for example, who are taking the college entrance exams, often study at gas stations after the sun goes down.

There are study halls, but they are dark at night because there is no electricity. The solar suitcases will light up those study halls.

The kits were paid for by PG&E. The training to build them comes from students at Cal State East Bay.

"When you have kids in a school that themselves have overwhelming poverty statistics and what they're excited about is helping kids that are less well off than themselves. That is truly inspirational to me," says Karina Garbesi, a professor of environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. It was her idea to work with the middle schools.

"It feels amazing, you know? I feel so happy that I'm helping others... half way around the world," said one student.
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