The SunEdu project developed an electronic learning environment concept to enable off-grid and rural schools to access up-to-date educational materials. By combining renewable energy, low-power electronics, and existing telecommunications networks, it is possible to put ‘books’ in the hands of the most distant student.
The demand for Finnish education experience is growing as our reputation for education excellence spreads. Developing countries are an important market for this kind of experience. One of the major challenges faced by educators in many developing countries is the lack of up-to-date education materials and connections to rural schools. In places where electricity is not consistently available, the internet is unable to connect content and educators. Telecommunications networks, however, are more ubiquitous. Schools are central information hubs for small villages, so this is also a vital opportunity for the distribution of agricultural and health information and the news.
University of Iringa (née Tumaini University) educates teachers in the Iringa Region of Tanzania. In cooperation with them, we have developed a system that fits the needs of the teachers as well as students. The system utilizes low-power e-reader devices, a mobile phone with data service, and solar power to provide content with minimum effort and greatest impact.
Our research focused mainly on local conditions and teaching processes, the user environment, service concepts, and end user groups for such a system. The concept was piloted in a partner school in Iringa, where ten families were provided an eReader and all families were provided with solar chargers. Participant families kept user diaries which detailed the use of the devices and their thoughts on how they might want to use the devices.
On the technical side, we evaluated the telecommunications system already in place to determine what kind of technology would best suit the situation. The eReader was designed and constructed to operate on as little power as possible, to receive content via low-power Bluetooth, and to take power from a small photovoltaic charger. The GUI was designed to fit users with minimal experience with technology. Both the eReader and the charger were designed for maximum durability and to operate in harsh climate conditions. The solar charger included an LED light by which students could read and study. Various types of photovoltaics and renewable energy options were researched and evaluated for suitability as well as for environmental sustainability.
Project Manager, Sampo Nurmentaus
tel. +358 20 783 6283
Partner organizations included Suntrica, an expert on solar power; LeiaMedia, developers of specialized e-Reader devices; Andamana, developers of modular energy and communication solutions; and the University of Iringa.
Reports & Publications
Aurinkopaneelit tansanialaisessa oppimisympäristössä – Petteri Välimäki