Cooper Union, 2009 - $43,200

In 2006, Cooper Union began working with rural communities in northern Ghana on a solar lantern project, called SocialLite. Supported in part by a 2008 NCIIA E-Team grant, they have developed several generations of prototypes, put several dozen lanterns into use, and attracted interest/inquiries from twenty-six countries. Part of the reason for the success to date is an approach in which the end-user assumes significant responsibility for system implementation and maintenance.

The team is now looking for funding to streamline the SociaLite systems engineering from the assembly stage all the way to long-term maintenance in order to meet demand, continue developing the business model, and establish satellite distribution centers in East and West Africa. The ultimate goal is the creation of an affordable, widely distributed, solar-powered lantern made from local materials and sold by local entrepreneurs.