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Stan State student solar project has global impact
Stan student solar
Students from the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research Girls High School in Kenya were able to use some of the Solar Suitcases built by students at Dutcher Middle School and physics majors at Stan State to light their classrooms. - photo by PHOTO CONTIBUTED

A service learning project of Stan State science students generated light-bulb moments for teens in Turlock and rural Kenya.

Physics majors at the university taught Dutcher Middle School students last fall about electricity and assembled solar suitcases in lunch-hour solar science club sessions at the school. Pacific Gas and Electric, in partnership with We Share Solar, a Berkeley-based education project, sent the assembled units to electricity-needing schools around the globe.

The Stan State College of Science received word of the delivery of the Dutcher Science Club’s Solar Suitcases through a bevy of thank you letters from a girls’ secondary school in Nyanza District, Kenya.

“This support has enabled the girls to do their studies both at night and during the morning preps without interruptions. This solar connection is an invaluable contribution touching the study life of our students in special way.”
Dorcas Oyugi

Dorcas Oyugi, principal of the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research Girls High School in Kenya, said “This support has enabled the girls to do their studies both at night and during the morning preps without interruptions. This solar connection is an invaluable contribution touching the study life of our students in special way.”

The school works to change the lives of women in communities characterized by extreme poverty and deeply entrenched gender roles. Forced marriage, early pregnancy and a high incidence of HIV/AIDS end the school days of many girls there. WISER provides an alternative for 360 children selected by need and academic potential.

The tiny power plants from Turlock have extended the time Susan, 14, can have light to read, she wrote in a thank you shared with Stan State. “I enjoy reading my notes in every subject and when I am bored I read novels,” she said in her letter.

“I enjoy reading my notes in every subject and when I am bored I read novels.”
Susan, 14

Joan, 16, thanked the Turlock students for a thrifty light source, which will benefit several schools in her community. “I would like to inform you that the portable solar suitcases were also shared with other schools around. We have plenty of sunlight this side of the world,” she wrote.

Jenifer, 15, noted solar is a clean and economical alternative to coal-generated electricity. “I really enjoyed learning about solar installation. I would like to be an electrical engineer in my future, and I will supply light to every house. Thank you so much.”

Bringing future students into science, technology, engineering and math fields figures into the College of Science outreach to Turlock schools, said Miriam Ureno Moreno, Stanislaus State STEM VISTA outreach coordinator.

University science majors who take part in service learning opportunities like the solar suitcase program also benefit, said Biology Professor Mark Grobner, who helped set up the program at Stan State. They tend to be more engaged in their field of study and graduate sooner, leaving with community service hours on their résumé.

Solar energy powered other explorations as well. “We included the solar suitcases in Science Day, a Science Saturday exploring green technology and a Science in the Park activity at Patterson, providing power for our displays and activities,” Grobner said.