From left to right, members of the “Solar Suitcase Project,” Joseph Doan, a 17 year-old senior, Kevin Yu, a 17 year-old senior, Marinel Garan, a 16 year-old junior, and Ashlynn Steen, a 16 year-old junior, work on a suitcase at Independence High School in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. At far left is Amy Hua, a 16 year-old junior. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
San Jose students build, deliver ‘solar suitcases’ to Kenya
SAN JOSE — Amy Hua takes a big breath and holds it in as she dumps cafeteria scraps into the Independence High compost bin that she helped build.
Then, wielding an oversize pitchfork, she struggles not to breathe or gag as she mixes the lunch leftovers with yard trimmings in the giant bin. It’s an unfavorite task that Amy, 16, tackles a few times a month — all to reduce campus waste and improve environmental sustainability.
Amy and schoolmates spent the first semester building and maintaining the bin, and also putting together portable solar generators that fit into a suitcase. All that dedication has more than just environmental payoffs. Next month[February], Amy, classmate Kyle Mondina and teacher Jordan Stone will deliver their solar kits to Kenyan villages, the reward for winning a PG&E sustainability contest for high schools.
Members of Women in Solar Energy and Entrepreneurship in Kenya examine anewly arrived Solar Suitcase. The women are installing a solar panel on the roof of a school in rural Kenya as part of a We Share Solar solar electric system. We Share Solar is a project of Berkeley-based We Care Solar. (Photo courtesy We Care Solar)
Solar installers from Women in Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship in Kenya install a We Share Solar Suitcase, delivered earlier, at a children’s home in rural Kenya. (Photo by Daphine Juma, courtesy We Care Solar)
They’ll travel to villages in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and Narok County, generally off the electric grid. The solar suitcases will power various devices, including lighting for kids to study at night.
“I’m so excited,” said Amy, who hasn’t been to an airport since she was a toddler, when her family traveled to Vietnam to visit relatives. When she learned she was chosen, “I didn’t know what to say. What? Me? Really? I was very grateful.”
She’s been away from her family only once, to attend science camp with her fifth-grade class. She is trying to pick up a little Swahili to exchange niceties with her hosts.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” Kyle, 16, said about the 10-day visit that will include demonstrations of bead-making and warrior training, storytelling with elders and a safari.READ MORE