Following the massive earthquake in Nepal last year, engineer Madindra Aryal wanted to help people who'd seen their homes destroyed. His idea: a portable solar panel that provides enough power to run two LED lights, a phone charger, and a small battery.
"I thought, 'they have no source of light, I have to be able to make something,'" he says. "It has to use a renewable energy source because there is no [grid] electricity and it should help them communicate outside their area."
Working with a local company and a philanthropist, Aryal spent three weeks building a prototype. Then, a manufacturer turned out 500 units, which Aryal's team distributed mostly to families in remote areas outside Kathmandu. The "Nepal's Light" costs about $16 to produce and about $20 after delivery.
Now Aryal is hoping to take his idea further and is looking for $10,000 on Indiegogo. He wants to incorporate a WiFi hotspot and take it international. "We would like to distribute it in Nepal and make it available it in different parts of the world. There are lots of places where people can use this," he says.
Helping Aryal is Steven Reubenstone, the New York founder of Collaborizm, a workspace for entrepreneurs and engineers. "Developing regions lack the ability that the West has to easily network and share knowledge. But highly educated young people from these areas are desperate to find people to help them innovate and explore new ideas," Reubenstone says in an email.
The site lets innovators set out a workflow of tasks and get input from like-minded collaborators. "We would not be surprised to see projects for social good to become core to Collaborizm, as other brilliant but isolated innovators seek help for their ideas," Reubenstone says.