In 2006, Cooper Union began working with rural communities in northern Ghana on a solar lantern project, called SocialLite. Supported in part by a 2008 NCIIA E-Team grant, they have developed several generations of prototypes, put several dozen lanterns into use, and attracted interest/inquiries from twenty-six countries. Part of the reason for the success to date is an approach in which the end-user assumes significant responsibility for system implementation and maintenance.
The team is now looking for funding to streamline the SociaLite systems engineering from the assembly stage all the way to long-term maintenance in order to meet demand, continue developing the business model, and establish satellite distribution centers in East and West Africa. The ultimate goal is the creation of an affordable, widely distributed, solar-powered lantern made from local materials and sold by local entrepreneurs.
In 2006, Cooper Union began working with rural communities in northern Ghana on a solar lantern project. They have made steady progress since then, developing several generations of prototypes. Field trials began in June 2007, with the ultimate goal of creating an affordable, solar-powered lantern made from local materials and sold by local entrepreneurs.
This grant further supported the project. Students traveled to Ghana in summer of 2008 and continued developing prototypes of lanterns, charging stations, and a pilot production assembly line.
This E-Team developed the Cooper Cooler, a shoebox-size device capable of chilling a bottled or canned beverage from room temperature to refrigerator temperature in less than a minute. The device provides rapid, natural cooling of the internal contents using only ice water and a spinning device. The process is perfectly safe for carbonated beverages like beer and soda, which are not agitated and do not explode upon opening.
The idea for the Cooper Cooler was born on a summer day in 1992. Faced with the age-old college dilemma of running out of cold beverages at a party he was hosting, Cooper Union engineering student Greg Loibl was inspired to use his engineering skills to solve the "academic" problem. Loibl worked on the idea as part of his chemical engineering master's thesis, and, sensing commercial promise, co-founded a parent company, Revolutionary Cooling Systems, Inc. The Cooper Cooler experienced strong commercial success and is now sold around the world through major retailers like Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.