Cheesy Kickstarter campaign wants to bring solar energy to students in East Africa

A playful new Kickstarter campaign aims to supply remote communities with a steady source of renewable energy while giving backers a handful of dairy-inspired tech devices. The campaign, SunMade Cheese, is the newest venture from Yolk, the inventor of the wildly popular Solar Paper, a thin and light solar charger that raised over $1,000,000 in 2015.

For Kickstarter backers, the SunMade Cheese collection includes a solar charging station, a power bank, and an assortment of forbidden dairy snacks. Look again. The block of Swiss cheese is actually a speaker. The teardrop of caciovallo is actually a lighter. The ricotta wheel doubles as a flashlight and a mood-setting lantern. And the slice of brie serves as a power outlet.

As fun as the Kickstarter rewards may be, the real purpose of the SunMade Cheese campaign is to fulfill the company’s “Solar for Everyone” promise and provide a source of renewable energy for remote communities in East Africa. Some families have to walk hours multiple times a week just to find an outlet to recharge their cellphone.

Yolk wants to bring the power to them. The company recently delivered a cow-shaped metal frame equipped with udders that act as a solar charging station to a primary school in Pokoy, Kenya. Throughout the day, the charging station converts sunlight into electricity, which students can access using power banks fastened underneath.

For each pledge to the Kickstarter campaign, Yolk has vowed to donate one power bank to a child in East Africa. The goal is to incentivize parents to send their children to school, where they can collect electricity to power devices like smartphones.

“Parents already know that education is important for their children’s future,” Sungun Chang, Yolk’s founder, told Digital Trends. “But they often can’t let them go to the school because they have urgent economic issues [at home]. The solar cow project is meant to provide some value to the parents under the condition that they simply send their children to school.”

As for the SunMade Cheese devices, Chang explained that the idea was to make solar power seem more appealing to the masses. After all, who doesn’t like cheese?

“Cheese is very casual,” she said. “Our mission is to give everyone easy access to solar energy. So rather than a very techie and geeky design, we went with something casual and humorous.”

With five weeks left to go, the campaign has raised around $33,000 of its $100,000 goal. Backers can get a SunMade Cheese plate, including a power bank and all the cheeses, for under $200. They’ll retail for around $380.

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