Introduction: DIY Solar USB Charger

About: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for students and Makers to put together.

My name is Joshua Zimmerman.  (DOB: 10/21/1982... October 21st, 1982)
My proposal for the Jack Daniels Independence Project contest is a low cost DIY Solar USB Charger for use in home, education, and humanitarian purposes. 

***So the Jack Daniels contest rejected this video guide for some reason.  No one seems to know why, and as far as anyone at can tell me it meets the requirements.  Oh well.  I guess the world will have to do without cheap small scale solar energy for a few more years.***

The world is run by gadgets of all types.  The problem with getting technology to remote places is often a matter of having a stable power supply. Even simple things like cell phones and GPS devices, essential tools no matter where you live, need a daily charge. 

One year ago I created a simple solar USB charger and posted it on  It was an instant success with over 100,000 views.  So I went about creating another variation that was more iPod friendly.  Again, success with over 120,000 views.  More recently I've refined my design to include better solar cells and Lithium batteries making the chargers even more useful when your'e without power.  One of my Lithium Chargers designs can power a gadget directly from the sun, fill it's own batteries up in a day, and has enough battery capacity to fully charge up an iPhone.

The design uses mostly off the shelf parts, and creation requires only the most basic of soldering skills.  At first I made some kits to use in my own science classroom and was surprised by how easy it was for my middle school students to put together the design.  I then started assembling kits for other teachers as well as selling some kits on my website.  My kits have been used all over the US with middle school, high school, and college students as well as various youth groups. 

While I love the educational use for these kits what I've been most proud of is that my kits have been sent around the world and found uses in areas where power is a luxury.  A non profit group took a bunch of my kits with them to Uganda where local women made them for personal use.  Having my designs power cell phones and GPSs for people who don't have a power source fills me with a lot of pride and hope.  I would love to see the Red Cross workers walking into a disaster with one of my chargers in their back packet because I know they would find a use for it.

If I was to win the $25,000 it would enable me to do several things.  Most importantly buy parts in bulk so I can greatly reduce the price of the newer Lithium Kits.  I have some great suppliers and manufacturers lined up, the problem is that I'm currently only buying in very small quantities.  This way more of my chargers could be sent off to places that need them, or find their way into middle school and high school classrooms.  Which brings me to my second point.  While my kits have had some moderate success, the big issue has been getting the word out.  Every year states across the US have science teacher conferences.  Massive events where teachers come to better their craft.  The money would be spent attending these conferences as a speaker and to hand out samples and literature. 

I know from teaching that the best way to get kids to learn is to show them how a subject or idea is useful to them.  I can't think of anything more useful to todays teens than a solar gadget charger that they made themselves.

The design is proven, the process of making them is simple, the parts are available, and the educational and humanitarian benefit is endless.  With your help I can turn this simple project into a tool that can help light up every corner of the globe.