Off the Grid and in the Classroom

| Josh Henretig

solarpanelsIn recent years Microsoft has increased its awareness and activities around sustainability, from our corporate headquarters in Redmond to our furthest reaching offices around the world. With this commitment, we’ve seen an increased interest from employees across the company in sustainable projects and efforts taking place both at Microsoft and also in other industries. Mark Reynolds, a Microsoft education sales manager in the UK, recently shared an interesting project that is focused on powering technology in the classroom through solar energy, and that has the potential to improve the way technology-enhanced learning is delivered globally.

Near the Microsoft Reading campus in Berkshire, UK, a local company called Solar Ready developed a concept called the Off-Grid Classroom, with the goal of offering more technology while reducing the environmental impact and electricity expenses. Mark shares that the Off-Grid Classroom “is essentially a container with solar panels on the roof and an IT rich classroom inside.” The concept comes in different sizes and is powerful enough to run as many as 30 computers and a teacher station, even in the gloomy Berkshire weather.

The possibilities for the Off-Grid Classroom are significant. Many parts of the world do not have the power infrastructure in place to give children the opportunity to use technology in learning, so a container that can simply be “dropped in” would be a huge benefit to these students. Meanwhile, in more developed areas, this concept could help educators expand capabilities quickly as it allows a school to add technology into a location where there is no power or data in place.

The container provides a secure environment for the classroom equipment and holds a table with power and data connectivity, in addition to an air-conditioning system which cools the technology from underneath. It is also enabled for Internet connectivity using a system that could provide 2G or 3G connectivity for the surrounding community.

Innovations like the Off-Grid Classroom provide options to increase access to technology globally while minimizing the environmental impact that the increased use of technology has on the planet. You can learn more about Mark’s visit on the UK Schools Blog. We encourage you to share your thoughts on the Off-Grid Classroom and what you think other industries or communities could benefit from solutions like this.

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