UMD students collected hundreds of cans in their push for solar power.

A group of University of Maryland (UM) students are making solar-powered light bulbs more readily available for poverty-stricken Filipino families.

UM’s Filipino Cultural Association (FCA) collected empty aluminum cans last month to raise money for a charity that makes the environmentally friendly light bulbs for people in the Philippines.

Isang Litrong Liwanag, which means “A Liter of Light” in Filipino, is a charity that uses plastic bottles to light homes in underprivileged neighborhoods.

The FCA collected the cans to trade them in for money to donate to the charity.

“I wanted to keep with the [charity’s] theme of recycling to improve living conditions,” said club member and community service chair Tyler Babich, a sophomore government and politics major at UM’s College Park campus. “I thought turning in aluminum cans for money was a great way to follow that theme.”

There are 3 million households without power or electricity outside Manila, the capital of the Philippines, according to statistics from the National Electrification Commission. There are some powerless neighborhoods within the city as well.

“You can imagine how big the effect of this light is in these homes,” Illac Diaz, the man behind the project, said in an interview with CNN. Diaz is the founder of the MyShelter Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on projects to increase environmental sustainability.

Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed the Solar Bottle Bulb. It was inspired by other cultures that use glass bottles to allow lighting through the roof.

The first attempt to use plastic bottles instead of glass bottleswas done by Brazilian Alfredo Moser, and the Philippine model is based off of his attempts.

To make the makeshift light bulbs, the students cut out a hole in the roof tile and then placed the empty soda bottle in the hole. The solar light bulbs can provide 55 watts of light, according to the charity’s website.

The bottle is filled with water and bleach, which allows the light to spread throughout the room instead of just through a hole in the ceiling.

“The plastic bends the light and breaks it up as it comes into the room,” said UM sophomore chemistry major Zoe Wright. “Instead of just beams of light hitting small portions of the room, a little bit of light is spread out. It’s a smart way to utilize inexpensive resources in order to get a relatively big result.”

This is an example of the way the Solar Bottle Bulb uses the principles of appropriate technologies, a movement pioneering the use of technology that is energy efficient and environmentally sound.

Though the month-long project is over, FCA participates in other charity projects, such as clothing drives and Relay for Life.

It also works with a student-run charity, Balik Bayan Books, to send books to orphanages and schools in the Philippines.

The total monetary value the FCA raised is not yet known, but Babich said it collected hundreds of cans from club members throughout the duration of the fundraiser, more than expected.

“The amount has been a little difficult to handle,” because of the sheer quantity of cans, he said. “But I’m so happy with the turnout.”

Rachel Karitis is a journalism student at the University of Maryland, College Park.


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