Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Like Stars In My Hands -- And The Sun In My Suitcase

You are still in a Lindsay Lohan-free zone.

Readers of Sine Timore, come and honor a hero among us.

Today's person that reminds us the world isn't completely dark and there is in fact hope for the future is Laura Stachel.  Stachel is a doctor, specifically an OB/GYN.  She was working on a doctorate in public health at the University of Berkley UC (UNIX FTW!!!) and decided in March of 2008, she headed off to Nigeria (Zaria, to be exact) to help any way she could.  Nigeria has only 2% of Africa's population but accounts for 10% of maternal deaths.

She thought she would just be teaching some basics to help reduce mortality rates -- antiseptic, washing, things like that.  Turns out that wasn't the problem.  Hospitals and health clinics there are at the mercy of a substandard power grid, and are often without power for large and unpredictable amounts of time each day.  People get turned away because there is no power, find a hospital with it.  Midwives delivering babies by hurricane lamp and, once, her own flashlight.

When she returned, she decided to talk to her husband.  Her husband, Hal Aronson, is a geek.  He loves science and gadgets and tinkering with stuff.  The two of them started brainstorming and came up with a prototype solar array.  It actually could fit into a suitcase (which is a good idea, because it minimized customs issues).

The specs:  the units cost about $1,500 to build, all done by hand in about three hours each.  The solar array produces between 40 and 80 kilowatts of electricity.  Sturdy construction, tough to break.  Folding solar panel.  Battery is common to the region and dirt cheap to replace.  Charge controller to regulate the power distribution to all the sockets.  Includes headlamps, solar lanterns, and walkie-talkies.

Aronson was still working on the full, official system when Stachel went back to Nigeria, taking the prototype with her.  Not only was the hospital begging her to leave the prototype so they could use it, but other clinics and hospitals in the area heard about it and sought her out, asking for one.

Stachel simply gave away the prototype and told her husband they were on to Something Big.  They have created WE CARE Solar, a non-profit that uses donations, fund raising, and federal grants to build the solar suitcases and send them to impoverished nations.  Since they put up their shingle, they sent out 80, and are taking steps to become a self-sufficient nonprofit and get more of these made and sent out.

Humanity can be beautiful.
Tags: a hero among us, important life lessons, pure awesome, science in action, technology is a beautiful thing

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