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Solar-powered, Digital Classroom-in-Box: A Digital System to Mitigate the Digital Divide of Post-pandemic Education

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Computers in Education 5 - Online and Distributed Learning 2

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Shamsul Arefeen Texas Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Having completed his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Texas Tech University in 2018, Shamsul is working towards a doctoral degree in the same discipline and institution. He completed his bachelors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Islamic University of Technology in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2003. He has extensive work experience in telecommunications and electrical power industry. He takes interest in inter-disciplinary research areas including renewable energy. He taught freshmen engineering courses at Texas Tech University and drew inspiration of working towards continuous transformation of engineering education.

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Tim Dallas P.E. Texas Tech University

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Tim Dallas is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas Tech University. Dr. Dallas’ research includes developing educational technologies for deployment to under-served regions of the world. His research group has developed MEMS-based educational technologies that have been commercialized, expanding dissemination. He has served as an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Education. Dr. Dallas received the B.A. degree in Physics from the University of Chicago and an MS and PhD from Texas Tech University in Physics. He worked as a Technology and Applications Engineer for ISI Lithography and was a post-doctoral research fellow in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas, prior to his faculty appointment at TTU.

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Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer Texas Tech University

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In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the modality of education has been forced to experience a transformation and remote learning, leveraging modern-day digital technologies, has been the de facto alternative. Though enforced by situation, this has accelerated digital delivery of education into a mainstream practice. Along with numerous benefits, digital learning also poses some challenges, such as inequity in access to education resources. Digital learning is still out of reach for large populations of many developing regions either due to lack of infrastructure or because it is not affordable. In this work, we investigate the impact of a solar powered education system that is designed to mitigate the digital divide in education. The engineered system is composed of a solar panel, battery, a pico-projector, and digital content stored in the projector. The system unlocks the opportunity to deliver education at remote locations where internet and electricity are not commonplace. In this study, we attempted to learn the in-operation aspects of the system and identify the improvement areas from the use case perspective. We look to learn the barriers of digital delivery of education for the end-users, the problems associated with operational knowledge specific to the system and how the users can be served with generalized contents by decoupling the system hardware from the channeling of the soft contents. User feedback from systems deployed in Africa and Asia are analyzed to assess how the system delivers education to connectivity and resource limited people. Alongside its technical aspects, this work proposes business and operational framework necessary for effective distribution of such solutions across the world.

Arefeen, S., & Dallas, T., & Greenhalgh-Spencer, H. (2021, July), Solar-powered, Digital Classroom-in-Box: A Digital System to Mitigate the Digital Divide of Post-pandemic Education Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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