Hindustan Times Photo: the school bag is fitted with a solar
charger and LED light – voila! – lights to do schoolwork at night.
Fitting backpacks with solar charging panels is not a new idea, but the bags have been luxury items. Anusheela Saha, an Indian designer has reinvented them, putting LED lights on slum school children’s backpacks, assuring they will have light at night. The first batch, manufactured in China, are coming in at about $25 a bag. Mass production would lower costs. Here is the story from the Hindustan Times:
The brilliant idea came to 34-year-old creative designer Anusheela Saha when she was talking to her domestic help, “She told me about the problems her children faced while studying at night. There are frequent power outages in her slum. This got me thinking.”
Saha’s solution was simple. Attach solar panels to schoolbags that collect energy during the day to power an LED light in the night. The bags are also equipped with a nifty device that converts a child’s movement into electricity as they walk around during the day.
The backpacks look like regular schoolbags but turn into a lamp when their front pockets are unzipped. Solar panels are attached on the sides, and can power the lamp for over eight hours.
“Children are out in the sun, walking to and fro to school, playing in the fields. While they are doing that, the panels attached to their bags get activated. Any physical activity they undertake while carrying their bags also adds energy. A regular school day will charge the inbuilt lamps to work for eight hours,” Saha explained.
“There is no dearth of sunlight here so why not use this readily available source to benefit the masses?” she added.
One would think such an idea would be immediately picked up by manufacturers but after facing several rejections, Saha eventually had to approach a local tailor to give shape to her vision.
The solar panels are imported from China. “I didn’t use locally made panels because they are heavy,” she said. As a result the bag weighs just 600gm and is easy to carry.
The idea isn’t exactly new and similar bags are available at leading stores but they come for Rs. 4,500 and up.
Saha intends to distribute the bags for no profit. The first batch was produced with funding from Salaam Balak — an NGO working for the education of poor children. Despite this, Shah incurred a production cost of Rs. 1,500 per bag.
So far, 22 backpacks have been given to students studying at the Shastri Park centre of the NGO for free. “I do not want to burden the families by the cost of these bags so I am looking at avenues for crowd funding where people can make donations for this initiative,” said Saha.