Building 50+ Solar Digital Libraries

We have reached the production stage for our Solar Digital Libraries! We’ve built 50 and counting….



The hands-on work involved drilling, wire-cutting and wire-stripping, soldering, heat-shrinking, gluing, and Velcro-ing.


The students were energetic, and showed up for four separate build meetings, which flew by, as someone would volunteer to play deejay, and then the music would play and the conversations would start. I’d like to thank these Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies students for their enthusiasm and perseverance—not just on this build, but for the entire quarter of hard work on all the various aspects of this project.


There were many opportunities for Learn-By-Doing in this initiative/adventure, which was my first of building a product at a larger, assembly-line scale. Some of the challenges included ordering items in bulk, the unavailability of certain items, and various shipping challenges (What? The box has been sitting in Van Nuys for 10 days? Are you kidding?).


I also discovered—the hard way—how extremely difficult it is to glue polypropylene plastics—which our waterproof box is made of! (Thank you 3M for saving the day!) This learning was in addition to what we learned earlier in the quarter about 3D printing, prototyping, and pricing. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the things we learned once we jumped feet-first in to this endeavor and figured things out as we went along. By the way, this iteration is about our 4th or 5th version of the solar digital library. And there will be more to come, for sure…


We’re very happy with how the libraries turned out, and look forward to bringing them to Peace Corps Volunteers in Vanuatu and the Federated States of Micronesia this summer.



The library consists of:

Banana Pi Microcomputer with WiFi Dongle and 32 GB SD Card
10W Eco-Worthy Solar Panel
Voltage Regulator
10,000 mAh Rechargeable Battery
Micro USB Connector Cords


I also couldn’t resist adding this lovely photo of our team presenting our work at the Cal Poly Engineering Expo on May 29th  2015.

P1160728Further information on the project can be found on the project website:



About ljhosman

Laura Hosman is Assistant Professor at Arizona State University. She holds a dual position in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and in The Polytechnic School.
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