I'm Nikitaa Sivaakumar, a product designer and innovator. I have a Bachelors in Civil Engineering from NIT Trichy, India and a Masters in Design from University of California Davis, USA. I am the Founder and the Product Designer behind MakeGlow.
It all started when I saw a lot of solar lamps being distributed for free by various companies and organisations to school students in the rural villages of India. Many of the rural kids I spoke to, said they discontinued using solar lamps as they did not trust the technology behind it. They dismissed the solar lamps to be cheap, funky products which are unreliable. That was when I realised that there is a massive disconnect between the students and the technology in itself. I figured that teaching these students about the technology through a hands-on DIY product will convince them of the benefits in using renewables like solar, get them to trust the technology and encourage them to adopt it in the future for their daily needs.
When I started designing MakeGlow, I had to try and understand how a solar lamp worked. I purchased over 10 branded solar lamps from online websites. My intention was to buy them, hack them, reverse engineer and identify how the circuit worked. Unfortunately, not one product allowed me to do that. I often had to break the diffuser, rip the panel which damaged it and tear open the plastic casing to check out the circuitry. I could never put it all back in place and have a working lamp. Therefore, I realised that the first step to make an educational product was to make it easy assembly and easy disassembly. That would allow for students to learn through tinkering and not get them scared about breaking anything. This would also encourage them to go for multiple try-outs which would in turn increase their learning.
And that was how MakeGlow, a cardboard foldable solar lamp kit came into existence. One which would allow students to fold and unfold. One that would allow them to take out the panel and the electronics without damaging them while still ensuring that they can be put back in place to make a fully working lamp.
Since then, MakeGlow has been tried and tested in various schools with lots of positive feedback. I am currently working on developing more such products, with the aim of connecting students (especially rural kids) to cool technology.