When California high school teacher, Tim McDougal, attended Laura Stachel’s presentation on WE CARE Solar at the 2009 Solar Schoolhouse Summer Institute, he was spurred into action. “I watched the video about WE CARE Solar and got chocked up,” he recounted. “The reality of the situation in Nigeria hit me squarely.” At first, Tim thought “good for her, using her knowledge to help,” but by the end of the presentation he began to imagine how his own personal experience and education could enable him to get involved.
Tim has been a general building contractor and teaches at Cosumnes Oak High School and Elizabeth Pinkerton Middle School in the Elk Grove Unified School District in Northern California. Tim recognized that the Solar Suitcase could be a great project for his engineering students. Most of the engineering concepts that Tim teaches were embedded in the solar suitcase; and it provided a project in which students could apply their knowledge to the realities of life. He had been looking for way to connect his students to global issues. The solar suitcase provided the perfect opportunity! Students could be trained to assemble solar suitcases for health care clinics in developing countries, engaging youth in solar electricity, global health care issues, and community service at the same time!
Tim studied the design of this portable solar electric system under the direction of Hal Aronson (co-founder of WE CARE Solar and co-creator of Solar Schoolhouse), and then created his own solar suitcase prototype. WE CARE Solar provided seed funding for materials. Tim devised creative ways to continue fundraising efforts for this project, and plans to engage in fundraising events at his school, a community fair, and a city-wide band concert! His daughter, Jordan, also watched the WE CARE Solar video and soon formulated the charter for a “WE CARE Solar Club” in her own high school to support these efforts.
If Tim has his way, solar suitcase construction will be incorporated in the fabric of his curriculum. “An opportunity like this occurs once in a teaching career,” he explains, “…a chance to give students first-hand experience in using engineering skills to directly contribute to a social good.”