The SolarLEAP Story

In 2009, SolarLEAP founder Charles Watson took a gap year between high school and university to work on a solar-powered computer project that he started in high school. The senior project's original prototype showed that solar powered computers were viable, affordable technology that could be built using retail parts: all that was missing was someone with the vision to turn theory into a real, tangible product.

Based on the suggestion of a high school teacher, Charles travelled to Nepal (a country with very unreliable electricity grids) to start work on a project aimed at providing modern computers to schools. Funding for the original five computers came from a summer job that Charles worked, after that all computers were funded through grassroots donations. Over the course of three months in Nepal, Charles built and installed 36 grid-tied computers with battery backups in schools throughout the country. These computers would continue to work when the power went down, without the prohibitively high cost of a laptop computer.

In Ghana, Charles continued the project, installing 24 computers, each running on solar power in off-grid schools. After the projects in Nepal and Ghana were completed, demand from rural communities started to grow. Within weeks, organizations in India and Ethiopia were looking for the unique low-power consumption computers to run in schools without electricity. Furthermore, Charles was looking for a way to continue the work without his direct, on-the-ground involvement, and thus SolarLEAP was born.

Today, SolarLEAP maintains the same goal of providing powerful educational tools to communities around the world. After creating a unique monitor design, SolarLEAP installed the first solar-powered computer lab in the Philippines. Students in Canumay can now, for the first time, enjoy the same level of computer-based, internet-enabled education as their peers around the world.

To see how you can help SolarLEAP grow, please visit the get involved page.