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Frog Designers with WE CARE Solar teamThe WE CARE Solar team is hard at work –optimizing the design and function of the solar suitcase. We went to Nigeria in July and brought back photos, room measurements, and surveys of the clinical activities conducted at 28 health facilities. This needs assessment allowed us to create specifications for our newest model of solar suitcase. Included in our wish list – lightweight durable solar panels, more battery storage, new lamp holders, and iconographic instruction manuals with fewer words.  Our goals are ambitious, requiring a wide range of skills and manufacturing capabilities.  We are so fortunate to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we have been able to draw upon local expertise from generous individuals and organizations who share our dream for safer childbirth.

For design help, we turned to Frog Design, where former Creative Director David Merkoski and and current Creative Director Michael DiTullo organized a daylong workshop with a team of enthusiastic engineers and designers. We tackled a number of issues including (1) how to improve the user experience of unpacking the solar suitcase, (2) easier ways to mount lights and solar panels, and (3) how to embed more educational material into our design. The FROG team was constantly in motion, depicting new concepts in a series of sketches that gradually covered the entire workshop wall. The day culminated in a brainstorming session focused on our mission and organizational road map.  The day was enlightening, creative and fun, and gave us a lot of practical ideas.

To create a more optimal solar panel, we asked Charles Liu of Everbright Solar for help.Charles Liu of Everbright Solar making new panels for WE CARE Solar Charles has been supplying WE CARE Solar with traditional glass/aluminum panels for years, and many of his products are dotted across our global map already. When Charles learned we needed a new lightweight panel for our mobile applications, he worked with our engineers to design a robust, portable, mono-crystalline panel that would exactly fit the dimensions of our case. Charles has dedicated countless hours to this task, working late into the night and on weekends.

Mike and Bill Hollibaugh of Holly Solar Products in Petaluma have been instrumental in helping us to create a rugged LED medical lights – bright enough to conduct surgery, waterproof, and virtually unbreakable! To test our new lights and select the best headlights to include with our suitcases, we are partnering with Frances Rubinstein and other scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley.  The lighting team is helping us quantify the performance of our stationary and mobile lights.

We are so very grateful that these talented people have shared their talents with WE CARE Solar, helping us extend our capacity to best serve the needs of health providers  caring for women and their families.


WE CARE Solar Suitcase Workshop Participants in September 2011