Canadian Humanitarian Initiatives Committee

collaborative technology addressing humanitarian needs


WECARE Solar Suitcase™ competition (2010-2011)

We are proud to have successfully held our first HIC humanitarian student design competition, desiggned to provide a venue for students to gain practical experience in improving or innovating on an existing design under some of the constrains and conditions they will face in industry. An abstract of the winner’s work will appear in the IEEE Canadian Review magazine. Congratulations to the three finalists:

The final student presentations took place during 24th Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering in Niagara Falls. They were preceded by two presentations: Solar Electric Systems for Remote Off-Grid Applications by Dr. Pritpal Singh, and Open Hardware for Humanitarian Applications by HIC’s chair Alfredo Herrera.

Theme of Competition

For our first competition, we decided to focus on improving or innovating on parts of the WE CARE Solar‘s system.

We were very excited to partner with WE CARE solar; they agreed to make the details of their “solar suitcase” platform available to us as Open (Source) Hardware and thus jointly improve access to electricity for the poorest in the world. WE CARE’s solar suitcase is a portable solar electric system that fits in a suitcase; it powers two overhead LED lighting, charges walkie-talkies and cell phones, and includes LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries. Participants will be asked to study this system and to propose ideas that will improve it, extend it or innovate it. WE CARE Solar promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity. You are invited to watch the following 45 minute presentation where Dr. Laura Stachel describes her mission and system in detail.

WE CARE Solar presentation at IEEE-PES-GM (July-2010), similar to presentation material in video above.

See also Solar Suitcase Sheds Light on Sunset Surgeries in Africa.

How does it work?

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a Canadian college or university. Each team had to have a mentor from the institution they are enrolled in, or industry. For a team to be eligible for the competition, the team had to be led by an IEEE student member in good standing at the time of final project submission. Teams could include students who were not IEEE members and we encouraged teams to include students that are enrolled in different disciplines. The students were responsible for all of the R&D activities and the creation of the working model or prototype. Design projects were judged on their innovation, quality of final report, completeness, practicality and complexity; the most important factors being innovation and practicality. Teams with graduate students had their score handicapped to make it fair for undergrad student. Points were initially planed to be awarded to teams showing their designs running in WE CARE‘s system at CCECE, but due to logistics and timing this did not happen.

All projects from participants did have to follow an Open Source approach, and designs were expected to become part of the Open Source platform in this competition.

Where can I find out more?

You can join our virtual community to read reference documents and to share ideas and opinions; or visit the Frequently Asked Questions web page for more details. The competition’s time line is as follows:

Proposal submission deadline (PDF, MS-Word): (extended) Jan. 21, 2011
Acceptance notification: Jan. 21, 2011
Detailed progress report submission (*): (extended) Feb. 25, 2011
(*) New project proposals accepted at this point based on recommendation by team’s mentor. Report required by deadline.
Semi-finalist selection announcement: February 28, 2011
Final detailed report submission: April 12, 2011
Final additional information: April 26, 2011
Winners announcement: May 8th, 2011 at CCECE

Please see the competition’s FAQ page for more details. Or consult the following document: HIC_competition_promo_2010-2011_final

How do I start?

Submit you project proposal, by email to, or email us at:

Note: Submissions must follow the competition templates and must be submitted in PDF format only.

How can I financially support this competition?

The IEEE Canadian Foundation will be accepting cash donations for the competition. There are three ways to donate:

  • On-line by using a secure website specially operated to enable online giving for Canadian charitable organizations
  • By mail by sending a cheque directly to the treasurer, Luc Matteau, at:
    IEEE Canadian Foundation,
    456 Rogers Street,
    Peterborough, Ontario
    K9H 1W9
  • By phone by speaking with the treasurer, Luc Matteau, at 705-743-7712.

Please direct your gift to the “Technology for Humanity Fund”.

Creative Commons Licence
IEEE Canada Student Humanitarian Design Competition by HIC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0.