Sixth-grader Jacob Burczyk hunched over a soldering tool and toggled with the intricate wires dangling from a small lantern that he helped build – a lantern that would soon be helping children thousands of miles away.
He was one of many students celebrating the completion of another successful year of Engineering Brightness, a club based out of Preston Middle School that builds solar-powered lanterns for children around the world.
“It’s awesome that we can help people around the world have light and make their world brighter,” Jacob said.
To date, the club has sent about 300 lanterns to countries including Liberia and Guatemala as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
When the club originally started in 2013, it focused on making biomass stoves for an orphanage in Uganda, Preston teacher Tracey Winey said. As the kids in Engineering Brightness talked with their counterparts across the world, they found a new focus and energy.
“We realized the kids all have the same dreams,” Winey said. “They all want to be teachers, nurses, doctors, soccer players, pilots and authors, but the difference was when the kids in Uganda came back to the orphanage, they had not light. It’s really hard to study when you have no light.”
Seventh-grader Charlotte Mills just completed her first year in the club. She can rattle off a laundry list of places where the lanterns have been sent to help other children, and she enjoys the science behind making the lanterns, she said.
“The people who are in the club are pretty into it,” she said with a smile.