Posted by Sundance Solar Press Team on June 03, 2014
- Toyota International Teacher Program award recipient Pam Ulicny works with Sundance Solar and Educo Africa to provide solar lanterns to South Africa
Shown above: Pam Ulicny's students at Tri-Valley Jr/Sr High School in Hegins, PA soldering parts on the SunBender DIY Solar LED Jar Light Kit.
Hopkinton, NH June 4, 2014 - Pamela Ulicny, a biology and environmental science teacher at Tri-Valley Jr/Sr High School in Hegins, PA is making her light shine on the impoverished areas of South Africa.
Pam’s journey began in April of 2011 when she was selected as one of only 24 teachers in the U.S. to visit South Africa funded through the Toyota International Teacher Program, courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales and the Institute of International Education. What Pam considered would be a “once-in-a-lifetime experience" has transformed her and the lives of people living in the impoverished townships of South Africa.
Ulicny recalls when she travelled to South Africa and saw the Soweto Township for the first time. At first sight, says Ulicny, it appears as an endless jumble of shacks made up of corrugated metal, concrete, and just about any material that could be salvaged. It's an enormous sprawl of 'shantytowns' stretching as far as the eye can see. “All I could think of is how wrong it felt to be sitting on a coach bus, looking down at the township and its folk, taking pictures of them as if they were some type of attraction, and then knowing that I was going to eat my fill in a quality restaurant and sleep in a four star hotel that night."
During her trip to South Africa, Ulicny learned about Educo Africa - a non-profit organization that works with at-risk youth from impoverished South African townships. Educo Africa helps to empower and transform disadvantaged South African communities by focusing on vulnerable youth, their parents/guardians, and their social environment. The organization’s philosophy is to provide a holistic circle of support to improve the dignity and power of those less fortunate.
Upon return from South Africa, Pam contacted Mark Gamble, CEO of Educo Africa. In the fall of 2012, Pam and Mark came up with the idea of fusing science education with the needs of the people in South Africa by finding a low-cost way to provide solar-powered lanterns to people with no access to electricity. The science education unit would directly tie into Ulicny's alternative energy unit in her environmental science class. The unit would incorporate more technology, engineering, and math into what she teaches. The unit also has the possibility to carry over into teaching South African students to design and build their own solar-powered lanterns, using some simple materials they can already access such as a glass jar or other clear containers.
Moving forward with her vision, in November 2012, Pam partnered with Sundance Solar to design a working prototype of a solar powered LED jar light kit. After a few months, they had a circuit board designed and produced in order to create a functional do-it-yourself kit. The product that they developed is a simple way of turning a glass jar into a functioning lantern and is available to teachers and the general public today. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the SunBender DIY Solar LED Jar Light Kits are donated to providing solar lighting solutions in South Africa.
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