A project in Kenya is claimed to be the country's largest solar classroom roll-out to date. UK-based computer company Aleutia is building a classroom in each of Kenya’s 47 counties, which will serve over 20,000 primary school children.

Aleutia specializes in providing education and healthcare solutions to developing countries and began working on the "Solar Classroom in a Box" project back in 2013. The aim of the project is to provide everything needed for a solar classroom in one package, including energy efficient computers, cabling and solar panels. Company director Mike Rosenberg tells Gizmag that the initial idea was to retrofit or adapt old shipping containers, but that, ultimately, a different approach was required.

"The problem we discovered was that the local supply of containers was very cheap but typically rusty and retrofitting and adapting them was expensive," explains Rosenberg. "Transport costs for a flatbed truck are very high and [costs are] even higher for a crane, which is required to lower [the containers] onto a foundation. So we pivoted."

Aleutia worked with the University of Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, as well as architects in Nairobi, to develop a structure that is insulated, low cost, easily transportable and scalable. Each classroom is made of local materials, such as cinder blocks and a corrugated tin roof, with a light gauge steel frame.

The classrooms can fit on a single pallet for transportation. They can be transported using local options such as cattle trucks and up to three classrooms can fit onto such trucks.

The design of the classroom means that no crane is required for their installation. The panels are assembled onsite by local laborers and each building comes flat-packed with numbers etched onto the pieces for easy construction.

The construction process takes two days, with the basic structure assembled on day one. Once the structure is complete, two solar panels are screwed onto mounting rails on the roof and the computer equipment is unpacked and set up.

In total, each classroom has 10 computers for students and one for a teacher. Aleutia T1 computers are used, which are designed to be fanless, rugged and economical. Teachers' computers are loaded with an offline English language version of Wikipedia and Khan Academy.

According to Aleutia, Kenya is the eighth sub-Saharan African nation in which it has deployed its Solar Classroom in a Box, with over 240 said to be deployed in total. "For nearly all, this will be their first ever experience with a computer," says Rosenberg.

Each classroom costs US$20,000, with $10,000 for the structure itself and $10,000 for equipment. The project in Kenya begins this month.

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