Ciera Johnson, a student at Franklin High School in Elk Grove, stands in front of one of the “Solar Suitcases” that will be used in Haiti.
Ciera Johnson, a student at Franklin High School in Elk Grove, stands in front of one of the “Solar Suitcases” that will be used in Haiti.

ELK GROVE — There are many ways to teach youth and adults with emerging green-collar skills how to develop solar energy: radiant heat and light from the sun. However, the local nonprofit, Green Technical Education and Employment (Green Tech), accomplished this feat recently, with an additional facet, that was presented in its Solar Case Project 2013.

At Cosumnes River College’s Northeast Technical Building, Green Tech students and volunteers in a humanitarian manner, learned how to build “solar suitcases” that will be delivered to the Hamuwra Orphanage in Uganda and to the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade in Haiti.

The Solar Case Project, Green Tech’s administrators say, is a portable “photovoltaic” lighting system, potent enough to light up a small room. It’s designed by We Care Solar’s “We Share Solar,” an outfit out of the Bay Area that provides youth with

an educational experience of using renewable power.

The Solar Suitcase will empower youth at the Ugandan orphanage and Haitian Medical Brigade to study at night, doctors to perform medical procedures, or whatever they desire to do in an illuminate area.

The most important tool the solar suitcases are expected to assist in are the recharging of cell phones for medical doctors in poverty-stricken countries.

“Our students get to learn entry-level, photovoltaic technology and electrical circuitry,” Green Tech Director Simeon Gant said of the Solar Case Project.

“They also learn to be local humanitarians by giving these solar suitcases to people that really need them,” added Gant.

The Solar Case Project took place during two separate workshops at the Northeast Technical Building. Participation included the National Society of Black Engineers from Sacramento State University and the Solar Club and ACE Mentors from Cosumnes River College (CRC).

Students, males and females, from Sacramento City College, Liberty Ranch High School, Franklin High School, and Grant High School were able to get hands-on training of how circuits and the stream of electricity works through diagram drawings.

The Solar Case Project was a tremendous asset to all the students.

Kanisha Bristow, a third-year mechanical engineer student at Sacramento State University said Green Tech is “moving in the right direction.” When she was in high school, Bristow had no knowledge of the essence of solar power on engineering. Green Tech has provided that and more.

“I had one of my friends come to talk to me and they were like, ‘You should really join this (Green Tech). This is really cool and you get to work on cutting-edge technology and you get to help people,’” Bristow said. “(The Solar Suit Case) is simple circuitry, easy to set up, and the instructions are wonderfully laid out and easy to read. After we are done, we know that it is going somewhere where they really need electricity. Personally, for me, that brings enjoyment.”

About seven solar suitcases, constructed among groups, were built during the second workshop within six hours.

The workshops also featured guest speakers, such as Sacramento Municipal Utility District Board member Larry Carr, CRC green technology instructor Ryan Connolly, Seaside’s Central Coast High School instructor Alan Jensen, and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), who talked about the importance of clear-air technology.

In the first workshop, the students from Sac State and CRC learned how to build solar suitcases, and then the following week they taught the high school students how to build them.

Jensen, who is passionate about building the solar suitcases and providing for the unfortunate, came down from the Bay Area to show Sacramento area students the exciting trade. Jensen had the students’ and volunteers’ full attention.

“These students are fully engaged,” Gant said. “There are a couple of reasons why. Alan (Jensen) knows these solar suitcases frontwards and backwards and teaches his students how to build them as well. Plus, I think the project itself is one of those projects that anyone might be somewhat interested in no matter what skill level you are.”

On April 10, Green Tech students and volunteers will travel to Livermore National Laboratory in Alameda County to tour the facility. The tour will give the students an opportunity to experience real-life science applications and the most current developments in global security and high technology.

Green Tech trains and develops students with emerging green-collar skills, making them proficient in building design and construction trades, science, entrepreneurship and engineering. Green skills, focusing on clean energy, environmental protection and energy efficiency to provide career opportunities for youth from traditionally underserved communities.

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By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer