By Katie Allen and Tracy Correa Lopez
BAKERSFIELD — Stockdale High School students shared what they learned and discussed the impact of building solar-powered suitcases as one of 19 Northern and Central California schools that participated in the inaugural year of PG&E’s Solar Suitcase Program.
The Bakersfield students learned about electricity, solar power, and how to build solar-powered suitcases to provide light. The finished products were delivered to community centers in Kenya last month by the international charity, Free the Children.
Students and teachers were interviewed by local media today (March 17) where they said while they learned a lot from putting together the solar suitcases, the resulting global impact is the greatest benefit.
Evan Flynn, who explained the components that make up a solar suitcase, said the experience was fun and helped students work together as a team.
“It’s cool, you know it’s not every day you can make an impact like we did. We kind of take for granted going in and turning on a light and, it’s something not everyone has and we could give that to people and that was kind of cool to think about, you know,” said the high school junior.
Stockdale High physics teacher Adam Herrera said the students learned a lot about solar power, much more than what they could ever learn from a classroom textbook.
“We actually got an opportunity to look at it through something tangible, hands on that they go to build,” he said.
Stockdale and the other selected schools received We Share Solar Suitcase kits through the PG&E program. The kits are a portable photovoltaic lighting system, powerful enough to illuminate a small room.
“This project has given us an opportunity to enrich the educational experience of students in both countries and our Stockdale High School students greatly appreciated the chance to make a difference,” said Kelly Buonauro, an English Teacher at Stockdale.
Community members and students in Kenya can use the solar suitcases to charge cell phones, watch television for the first time, or get a haircut with clippers. All services are provided for a small fee and funds are then reinvested in community projects to benefit the village in Kenya.
The program is part of PG&E’s $250,000 sponsorship to provide sustainable energy project opportunities for local high schools.
“PG&E is a champion of education, providing nearly $70 million to local schools throughout Northern and Central California over the last decade. The Solar Suitcase program allows us to pair that commitment with our focus on a clean energy future. By educating students on the importance of solar, we can both inspire them, and provide them with valuable tools for making an impact in their local communities and around the world,” said PG&E’s Helen Burt, senior vice president of external affairs and public policy.
The 19 schools selected for the Solar Suitcase Program were announced in August.
Four students who took part in program were chosen, based on videos they submitted of their own sustainability project success stories, to make the trip to Kenya with Free the Children last month. It provided the chance to take part in an international humanitarian solar suitcase delivery mission to orphanages, schools and medical clinics in Kenya with the international charity.
This unique global opportunity for local high school students adds a new dimension to PG&E’s commitment to education and renewable energy.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com