A simple mouse click can help a team of NIU business and engineering students win funding to start a company that they believe can provide safe and affordable electric power to millions of Africans.
The team, Light Up Africa, is competing in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, competing against other college students across the country for seed money to launch companies that have a goal of solving social or environmental problems.
Projects focus on areas such as health care, education, economic development, providing clean drinking water and others.
The portable device can be attached to a boat, bicycle, oxen or just about any other moving object and convert that kinetic energy into electrical energy that is stored in a battery. The energy can be used to charge cell phones or power small appliances and replaces dangerous kerosene lamps with safe electric light.
Once launched, the team believes it can sell 100,000 of the devices (at about $54 apiece) in the first 12 months.
To help Light Up Africa, visit their project page on the DSIC website. Voting runs until Thursday, May 3, and supporters may vote only once. While the team only recently entered the contest, it currently ranks among the Top 10 for projects in the African region. Top vote getters in each region earn $1,000 seed money.
A team of judges also reviews all projects, selecting several to proceed to a second round where they will receive mentoring. Teams that emerge from that round will be flown to Austin, Texas, where they will compete for a chance to win up to $50,000 in prize money.
The quartet of Huskies first joined forces for the first ever Social Venture Business Plan Competition at NIU.
The actual competition was the culmination of a semester long class designed to teach teams how to become social entrepreneurs who work to improve the world. They won that competition and received $10,000 in seed money to help launch their company, but will need far more to turn their plans into reality.