Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
October, 6th 2015

So, you may be wondering how can lights cut emissions.  Well, the Danish city of Copenhagen has decided to host a massive experiment to determine the effectiveness of so-called “smart lights” – energy efficient street lamps that could cut carbon emissions and even help monitor an urban setting.

blog street light

Their climate change plan is a roadmap to make Copenhagen “carbon neutral” by 2025, cutting carbon emissions to insignificant levels.  To become utterly devoid of all but the most insignificant of carbon dioxide emissions, the city will have to overhaul and reinvent some of the most iconic parts of city-life.  Lighting has been found to account for about six percent of global carbon emissions, a worrisome greenhouse gas.  According to New Scientist, Los Angeles pumped out 111,000 metric tons of carbon to keep its streets lit, simultaneously costing the city and estimated $15 million.

The 5.7 miles (9.2 km) of road in the Copenhagen suburb of Albertslund has replaced their street lights with “smart lights” which will be closely observed.  These lights could even help monitor city life, sensing potentially dangerous toxins in the air or noticing peculiar street activity that may warrant police attention.

It’s nice to see yet another big move in an effort to clean up our planet.





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October, 5th 2015

We’ve had a few blogs over the past year that make reference to Origami – the ancient art of paper-folding brought to us by the Japanese.  The intricacies of these creations, made by human hands, is nothing short of breathtaking.  Modern day technology is seeking to take advantage of the principles of historic art forms to break new ground…  And here’s the most recently reported result!

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (UM) have used the ancient art of paper cutting, known as kirigami, to create a unique thin-film solar cell that can use a method of following the sun called optical tracking.


Read the article direct from the school’s website

Inspired by art,


lightweight solar cells


track the sun


U Mich Solar kirigami

And take a look at the LiveScience story on the same topic:  Japanese Paper Art Inspires Sun-Tracking Solar Cell

Solar energy use is growing in popularity everywhere.  Will you be on the ‘cutting edge’ like these U Mich students?

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October, 5th 2015

I love a good experiment, I always have.  As a child I often took things apart.  Things that didn’t work because I was determined to fix them and things that did work because I wanted to know exactly how they worked.  Looking back, I’d consider myself a curious child though my parents may have thought otherwise at the time.  All that experimentation paid off because it kept me interested in science.  I wanted to learn more.  When people would tell me, in elementary, middle and even while visiting colleges while still in high school; “that’s for boys” or when I was the only girl in the room at science camps or lectures I’d go deeper to build a better circuit, create a better model, solve a harder problem.

Girls aren’t good at science is a misconception.  One that must be broken so that innovation can move forward.  Without different perspectives we only see a small bit of what’s possible.  You can be part of the solution to dismantle myths about women in science.  Join us in an experiment and have a conversation.  Hack a Hairdryer to dismantle stigmas is tech.

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The Challenge: Take a tool that is associated with outward appearances – the hair dryer – and repurpose it for a different use from its original design.

The Objective: To help raise awareness about the negative effects of gender stereotypes and unconscious biases that women in STEM face every day.

For more information and details on how to submit your hack visit:

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October, 3rd 2015

We’ve been hearing a great deal in the media about the startling losses in the bee population across the globe.  Bees may be unwelcome guests at your outdoor celebrations; but, they serve a vital role in the planet’s ecosystems.

There’s some recent research due out for publication that I stumbled across and found extremely interesting.  I admit to being more than a little apprehensive around any flying or buzzing things that cross my path – but, I am a true advocate for the bees.  We need them — and knowing more about their psychology and adaptive habits may give you some ideas relating to human behavior, too!  Just the title of this article from the Chinese Academy of Sciences website made me want to know more…

Asian Honey Bees Are Paranoid about Losing Their Leader,

Prone to Despair – and Closet Anarchists


So whether you are a botanist, an herbalist or a ‘closet anarchist’ yourself, your work could impact the bees and other life on Earth.  Think about that the next time you observe a furry, striped little guy (or gal!) winging past you…


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Mambo! We’re back to blog about our project wrap-up. Just to recap, we are a group of three engineering students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and we’re working on a water resources project at the Ilboru Special Needs School in Arusha, Tanzania. This school is booming now! A new dorm and classroom building have been completed and are only waiting for water connections before students move in and start classes in their new facilities. This is where we, as engineering students, entered into the project. We’ve conducted a land survey, calculated how much water the school will need, and proposed a water network to meet the school’s present and near-future water needs.

We are pleased to report that all four of us – three students and our guide – are home in South Dakota safe and sound. Although we’ll miss Tanzania dearly, it’s good to be back! At this time, we have finalized our calculations, checked them with our professors, and sent off our master report to be looked over one last time before submitting to Ilboru Special Needs School. Since we left, the school has completed its classroom building, the only thing missing now is water connections. We are very happy to hear about the completion and have worked fast to ensure that staff and students can use the new facilities as soon as possible.


Ilboru Special Needs School is celebrating the completion of their new classroom building, seen in the background.

This week, we presented our work at a public forum called “Tanzania: Then and Now.” This forum primarily celebrated past American Peace Corps volunteers who served in Tanzania during the first Peace Corps term. However, the forum also served to display ongoing support of American projects in Tanzania. Naturally, we were asked to present! Our community was very receptive to our presentation and thanked us for our work. They also raised money through a silent auction in support of a number of projects in Tanzania. In return, we thank our communities, both local and national, for their support of our project. This project would not have been possible without grants from Students for a Smarter Planet and our Rotary International district.

Tanzania then and now

Flyer advertising the public forum where we presented this project.

In the future, we will remain consultants for engineering projects as long as Ilboru School keeps in touch. When we talk about Ilboru School, we aren’t only including the Special Needs School, but two adjacent schools as well. Although this project specifically addresses the Special Needs School, we also spoke with and dreamed up some potential projects at the adjacent Ilboru Primary School and a nearby Lutheran Church School. Our school’s engineering students will continue to discuss projects with all the Ilboru Schools and we hope be involved again in the near future.

Once again, thank you to Students for a Smarter Planet for helping us complete this project! If we receive updates and we are given permission to share, we will post them here. We will also monitor our blogs for any comments or questions that blog readers might share. Take care and keep sharing your ideas and projects, bloggers!

-Kylie, Abbey, and Michael

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