A simple thought can be so powerful. I have experienced this first-hand. In considering ways to reduce our carbon footprint, the idea of creating a solar power bank came to me. I knew I could save a lot of electric energy if I could charge my phone with solar power. In other words, if I could change the way we charge our phones, then I could effectively “Charge to Change” our carbon footprint.
My goal was to build a solar power bank that my fellow students would use at school to charge their phones. Hence, I choose to create one for my Grade 10 IB Middle Years Programme Personal Project (MYP). This project requires Grade 10 students to showcase our learning from the MYP through a subject or area of passion of our choosing.
I didn’t just want the project to be “personal,” I wanted it to stem from personal interest but result in something that would reshape the way we use energy. Sustainability and renewable energy will pave the way for the future, and as someone who lived in East Africa for eight years, I had seen how people designed simple machines to harness natural energy for generating electricity.
Inspired by the major impact these simple projects had, I felt it was time for students like me in international schools and big countries to take action. Now I am in China, where technology is easily accessible, hence I wanted to be truly global in my perspective when looking to create a solution. Combining the simple projects idea from East Africa with the technology support in China, I came up with a solar power bank. This was not easy, as I had to learn the entire process of harnessing solar energy and converting it into volts to charge a phone.
First, I took a Coursera course to understand the basics of solar energy and watched additional videos on how to build a solar power bank. Consequently, I outlined success criteria for my project and drew a sketch of how I wanted my product to look. After conducting interviews with solar experts and running a survey within the school, I received feedback that allowed me to improve the “Star Bank” and collected the information to justify its creation. The final steps were focused on construction and user trials, as well as advertising.
The “Star Bank” has been a great success so far. I plan to take my project forward by running a Service Action club that teaches aspiring engineers how to make simple machines that can contribute to solving global problems. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem of charging phones is more relevant than ever, as students must stay connected, therefore increasing the electricity consumption. This is where my product comes in—a simple and elegant means of reducing nonrenewable energy consumption.
Charge to Change
A typical mobile phone charger uses 3-7 W (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, 2019) while charging. If a student’s phone takes two hours to charge, it will consume 0.006 to 0.014 units or kWH of electricity. But most of us leave our phones charging overnight. According to research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley Lab, if the mobile phones are kept plugged in, they still use about 4 W of electricity. If all students in my grade use my charger instead, they will save 4 W x 60 students = 240 W of energy/per and 240 W x 365 days = 87,600 W (approximately 88 kW). And as per my research, this energy could power a Tesla car to run approximately 264 miles (source: www.pluglesspower.com).
Ultimately, I’m very proud of my solar power bank. I took on a challenge in which I applied prior knowledge infused with new concepts and skills to accomplish my goal. Engineering is a subject that my family has studied for generations, and I’m proud to have applied some engineering concepts even before becoming an engineer.
Ahaan Chakrabarty is a Grade 10 student at an IB school in China.