Electricity from SPARKs creates light


SPARK_1 For many people living in Global North countries, having access to electricity is seen as a way of life, not a privilege. Remote and rural communities across the Global South, however, see electricity as a privilege that only a few are able to access. But a new and innovative invention, which uses music and kinetic energy, aims to help bring lights into homes that are left in the dark once the sun sets.

Sudha Kheterpal, a percussionist from the United Kingdom-based band Faithless, has designed a device that she has dubbed the SPARK. This device, which doubles as a musical instrument, uses energy to power a rechargeable battery that can then be used to power electronics like lights and cellphones through a built-in USB port. After being played for only 12 minutes, it can power an electronic device for up to an hour.

The SPARK contains beads that create music and help guide magnets from one end of the instrument to the other. As the magnets move, they travel along a coiled copper wire (called a solenoid), which creates a current of electricity that is stored inside a rechargeable battery; this provides the energy used to power lights and other electronics.

SPARK-2The lights are essential in providing safety to students who often walk to and from school in the dark. It also allows for household tasks to be completed after the sun sets and provides safety to anyone traveling at night. Kheterpal has also stated that the energy produced by the SPARK devices will allow access to mobile banking and MFIs, which are popular tools helping lift many people out of poverty throughout Kenya.

SPARK prototypes have so far been tested by communities throughout Kenya and received positive feedback from school-aged students and adults alike. To fund the second stage of the project, a crowd-funding page was created on Kickstarter which, on July 10, 2014, achieved the £50,000 goal.

The funds raised will help with the next three goals of the project: shipping 1,000 more prototypes to Kenya for further testing, help create educational kits for schools, and invest in further research to ensure the devices are sustainable created. Individuals, communities and schools that helped with the initial testing will be the first to receive shipments of the new prototypes.

Educational kits will be given to schools that have students studying science and technology. The kits will include all the pieces used to create a SPARK, as well as instructions and information on how to properly build them so the students will be given the knowledge to produce the devices themselves. After completing the lessons in the kits, they will have their very own SPARK for personal use.

The second wave of prototypes and educational kits will be shipped by October 2014. These will help with additional research, which will be needed in order to make any additional changes to the project. The end goal is to have the SPARK devices ready to be fully developed, distributed and used across Kenya by March, 2015.

Kheterpal has been using the hashtag #shakeyourpower to raise awareness for the project across social media platforms. She has also recruited fellow musician, Melanie Chisholm (former Spice Girl) to support the project and help raise awareness. The project has also been supported by different groups including the UK chapter of Engineers Without Borders and Run for Life Canada.

For more information or to donate, check out the Kickstarter page. Check out this video for more about SPARK.

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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