The plan, “Solar Energy for Shikha School,” was hatched by Tilak Pun, a native of Nepal and an alum of the Shikha Higher Secondary School, and his co-worker, Clif Swiggett, Chief Technology Officer at Knowledge Mosaic Inc., a local information technology company. Along with Swiggett’s two high school-aged sons, the two have built a solar power prototype atop the Knowledge Mosaic offices in the Interbay neighborhood of Seattle. In August, they will travel over 7,000 miles to Nepal to create a system similar to their rooftop model, but on a much larger scale. In a recent successful rooftop test, they cooked marinated shrimp on Pun’s small Nepalese electric grill to ensure compatibility with Nepalese current.
Frequent power outages prevent more than 350 public school students in Grades 1 through 12 at Shikha Higher Secondary School from fully utilizing donated computers in the school’s computer lab. These outages often last for days, severely limiting options and opportunities for study. According to Pun, a reliable power source would provide access to the internet, communication, and the outside world--critical enhancements to student learning in a community where trained, skilled teachers are not readily available. Pun believes that harnessing the sun “to power up laptops and giving these children access to the wealth of knowledge and educational resources available on the internet will enable them to dream big and realize new possibilities.”
In bringing to life the notion that “it takes a village,” many others have offered a helping hand to make this dream a reality, including Nepal’s Secretary of Ministry of Education, the Namaste Children’s Fund, and Pun’s colleagues at Knowledge Mosaic Inc.
The prototype will be disassembled by June 10th and shipped to Nepal. However, getting the equipment to Shikha will require Pun and the Swiggett family to trek along the Annapurna Circuit, one of Nepal’s most famous trekking routes, to an elevation of almost 7,000 feet. Along with as many as 20 students and several mules, they will carry more than 1,400 pounds of equipment, including ten solar panels and ten batteries each weighing over 80 pounds. Even without baggage, this trek would take over ten hours, and is usually a two-day trip.
“Linking technology and knowledge is at the very heart of our company” said Peter Schwartz, President of Knowledge Mosaic Inc., “and we are extremely proud of the passion Tilak and Clif have shown in their personal mission to bring solar powered learning to Nepal.” The company plans to follow the journey of their fellow employees to Nepal and track their progress setting up the power system on blogmosaic, http://blogmosaic.knowledgemosaic.com, the company blog.