Solar Suitcase



Given the limited time to finish this project, our goal is only two-fold:
1) We would like to spread the word of We Share Solar to classrooms here locally in San Luis Obispo County. We will attempt to share this projects ideas with AP Environmental Science students in High School, and elementary school students to see who has the most interest and potential.
2) We are going to see if there is a way to make the suitcase itself less expensive. The idea is a great one, but with limited resources how is a 3rd world country village supposed to be able to afford it without some sort of aid. We would also like to link up with the solar cooking group and possibly make a blueprint to add a cooking element to the solar suitcase we develop if possible.


We Share Solar is dedicated to making the future a brighter place for those in need of some light in their life. Follow this link to see what We Share Solar is doing to help.

Jeremiah Schoenfeldt is a fourth-year kinesiology student who hopes to apply the information he learns in PSC 391 when he starts a business in the future. His interests include spending time with his daughter, watching Rick and Morty, doing resistance training in the gym, playing basketball, and watching movies.

Olivia Woods is a fourth-year kinesiology student at Cal Poly. Her interests include hiking mountains, reading books about science (such as the brain), frequenting the beach, attending live music events, and tasting wine. She is currently learning how to play Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, and trying to manage good grades whilst working and attempting to have a social life.

Jojo Fleischman is a third-year at Cal Poly majoring in Environmental Engineering. Her interests include rock climbing, traveling, sustainability projects, and the outdoors. She is hoping to apply the information from this project in other development projects such as engineers without borders.
We Share Solar.jpg
The issue we found with the solar suitcase itself that is provided by We Share Solar is that it’s very expensive and this means that there are areas that may not be able to be sponsored with a suitcase or have the financial means to invest in one. As we learned from reading the articles in class, a more inexpensive unit that may not be as reliable is something that the people in these poor villages around the country would greatly appreciate. As described in our goals, we decided to seek out local students who may show us insight as to how to go about making a suitcase at a lower cost.

During our first presentation, we went to an elementary school in Grover Beach. Children sometimes have a different insight to problem-solving than most adults, and we wanted to see what their input was. We engaged 5th and 6th graders at Grover Heights Elementary in order to see what it was they already knew about solar energy and show them the suitcase and how it works in rudimentary terms.


We asked them questions about how they think solar energy works and why we even use solar energy in the first place. Some of the kids were very engaged, and others were not, but overall they seem to understand the impact solar energy has on the environment and our need to move away from fossil fuels.

We then moved on to the suitcase and showed them how it works and what the purpose of the case is for developing countries that need light for various reasons. The kids needed a little guidance when it came to empathizing with people from other countries, but once we gave them a few examples they started to really pour out ideas and you could see that they were starting to understand what it may be like for kids in other countries.


We explained to the kids that the suitcase we were showing off costs close to $1000 and asked them if they knew why that may be a problem for villages in Africa. They knew right away what the problem was. They said that most poor villages may not be able to afford the suitcase and that they may need a cheaper one. So we turned them loose into groups and gave them the assignment of creating a cheaper version of the solar suitcase after we explained to them that there are ways to make solar lighting cheaper. They all had access to the computers in the computer lab, and we all went around and mentored them through the process.

Amazingly enough, all the kids came up with a model that consisted of the basic elements of the solar suitcase that was able to be constructed at a fraction of the cost. We also discussed the fact that the price of the project would vary depending on the amount of energy and light needed for each individual person/village. This makes each solar project more personable for each of those in need. This definitely gives us a direction to explore at greater lengths.

We visited 2 different Arroyo Grande High School Maker classes taught by James Colgan. They were currently working on making solar panels that have the ability to charge people’s mobile devices. We took this opportunity to ask the students about their thoughts on the Solar Suitcase and discussed our current problem statement. After our short presentation power-point and a short video about the suitcase, we walked around that classroom and discussed their projects and ours and collected emails for a future collaboration.


During our video presentation

One group’s solar panel project

20171102_091647.jpgJames Colgan, Olivia Woods and Jeremiah Schoenfeldt


After our presentations and the opportunity to gather information from a variety of sources and hear various opinions, we had what we thought was enough to put together a pretty good blueprint of our own solar suitcase. We named it “Parvus Solaris” (Latin for Little Solar) and made it diverse enough to have a wide range of options from price to component variability. From just powering one light bulb to powering up to three separate devices, our pricing ranged anywhere from 334 dollars all the way down to 46 dollars. Much better than 1000, but also not as reliably tested. Here is a glimpse of what it may look like (This is the most expensive version. There is a “skeleton” version that consists of just the battery, control panel, wiring and the light bulb):


Moving forward, we are looking for someone that would be willing to pick up where we left off This could be a good start, but fuses may also be necessary to protect equipment and exact hours of output would need to be tested and measured. We have an email list of the high school students that were interested in collaborating on possible designs and would like to invite them to take a look and give any input.


Stakeholder groups Interest at stake in relation to project Effect of Project on Interests Importance of stakeholder for success of project Degree of influence of stakeholder
Principal Coordination 1 3 1
Students Vision of project 4 4 3
Teachers and YMCA Coordinator Guiding students’ vision 2 3 1
Pete Supplying suitcase and guiding our vision 4 3 2
Receivers of suitcases Lighting Hospitals and schools among other uses 5 5 Unknown