A fleet of all-in-one modular schools brings high-tech education to off-the-grid communities in rural Africa.
image via @aleutia // twitter
In rural communities, where resources and infrastructure are often at a premium, it is often children who bear the brunt of those scarcities. With that in mind, U.K.-based tech firm Aleutia have developed a flatpack, solar-powered modular classroom that can be built entirely off the electrical grid, and can accommodate up to 40 students at a time. The “Solar Classroom in a Box,” as it’s called, is designed to bring energy-independent educational opportunities to students for whom access to computer-equipped, internet-ready schools might otherwise be limited.
Image via @aleutia // twitter
Disassembled, each Solar Classroom in a Box can fit in the bed of a pickup truck. According to Aleutia’s website, the cinder block, and steel structures take about a day to contstuct—no cranes necessary—and another day to fully wire. But it’s not simply the structure that makes the Solar Classrooms in a Box so impressive. Each comes complete with 11 desktop computers designed specifically to operate in the dusty heat of rural Africa, as well as a server, a projector and monitor, and 3G and Satellite connectivity, all powered by the classroom’s pre-installed rooftop solar panels. The only things missing are the students. Each Solar Classroom in a Box runs $20,000, with half of that accounting for the structural costs, and the other half for the included technology.
image via @aleutia // twitter
Aleutia, which focuses on bringing computers and health care technology to developing communities, announced recently that they would be shipping a Classroom in a Box to each of Kenya’s 47 counties, servicing an estimated 20,000 children, as a result. While it isn’t the company’s first batch of classrooms delivered to African nations, this latest initiative is being called Kenya’s largest solar classroom project to date. As FastCo points out, Aleutia’s classrooms have been optimized for this particular rollout, with company founder Mike Rosenberg explaining:
Usually when we install solar, there are issues with the panels pointing the wrong way or at the wrong angle. Here, because it's all pre-installed and optimized, there's no need for a site survey and other retrofitting costs.
Here’s a look at the classrooms in action, from an earlier rollout in nearby Uganda:
Modular classrooms have become a growing trend in education architecture, and similar “shipping container schools” have already been built in South Africa and Malawi. What sets Aleutia’s classrooms apart, claims the company, is that unlike other solar power flatpack buildings, the Classroom in a Box’s decentralized computer system means that each of its 11 custom PCs will continue to operate independently should the main server fail. What’s more, explains FastCo, each classroom will be able to charge a small number of peripheral devices (think: phone chargers, monitors, etc) which Rosenberg hopes could one day develop into “micro-grids” of inter-connected modular buildings, independent from standard electrical infrastructure.
Meanwhile, construction on Kenya’s new batch of solar classrooms is already underway, with much more to come.