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World’s first solar-powered classroom

The kit used to create a virtual classroom in a school in Kenya

The kit used to create a virtual classroom in a school in Kenya

1 October 2010

A Bristol graduate has developed the world’s first ‘solar-powered classroom’ that could revolutionise the teaching of chemistry in developing countries. 

Professor Tony Rest (BSc 1965, PhD 1968, DSc 1985), Project Coordinator of the Chemistry Video Consortium at Southampton University, has set up a prototype ‘virtual classroom’ in partnership with Keith Wilkinson, a teacher at the International School of Lusaka, Zambia, that’s the first of its kind.

It has no mains electricity, yet is able to offer a laptop and projector running for a full school day if necessary and then for local communities in the evenings. Throw in a cell-phone that can be exploited as a Bluetooth modem, and you have easy and direct Internet access. They have demonstrated that it is at last technically feasible to have live, projected Internet access in a classroom setting with no mains electricity.

Professor Rest and Wilkinson presented the project at the 5th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training held in Lusaka, Zambia in May 2010, showing how to run a solar classroom with a projector. 

In this initiative, Rest and Wilkinson designed and field-tested several solar energy generators which can be linked to lap-top computers and data/video projectors. Using these systems students can gain instruction, stimulation and knowledge via CD-ROMs and DVDs which have been produced in other countries and adapted according to national curricula.

Professor Rest said: ‘Chemistry is one of the hardest subjects to teach in developing countries because students, especially in rural situations, don’t have access to chemicals and equipment and teachers can’t demonstrate chemical reactions. Yet Chemistry is vital for the future development of developing countries. Our work is harnessing the power of modern technology to bring appropriate, sustainable practical Chemistry teaching into the classrooms of some of the poorest countries in the world.’