SociaLite: Lighting the Way

September 04, 2012

Cooper Union Stock Photo

SociaLite began in 2006 when engineering Professor Toby Cumberbatch challenged his first year students to design a safe lighting system for rural, poverty-stricken communities in Ghana. The students devised a way to create solar-powered lanterns by combining affordable LED technology with throwaway bicycle spokes,Tampico soda bottles and Ultra Beauty hair product containers. Each kit can be customized to meet a village’s lighting needs at a modest cost, a down payment of $5 with a service charge of $1. The money generated by SociaLite enables students and faculty from Wa Polytechnic, Cooper Union’s local partner, to visit and train remote communities to assemble and manage their lighting system. The Economist included SociaLite in an article featuring solar powered alternatives to kerosene-fueled lanterns and mentions the partnership with Wa Polytechnic.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.