The Future of Solar Born from a Lifetime of Innovation

Submitted by: John Converse Townsend on 11/22/11

UPDATE: Although it’s been just two weeks since we last checked in on the 19-year-old whiz kid Eden Full, there are a couple of updates to her impact story.

TechChrunch gave Full a shout-out for her contributions to the solar industry, and for winning the 2011 Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur (YSE) competition. TechCrunch also recognized her for being a member the “Under 20 Thiel Fellowship,” a program launched by former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel which provides entrepreneurs under the age of 20 with two free years of school and $100,000 to further their innovative social solutions.

Even more impressive was Eden’s showing in the Postcode Lottery 2011 Green Challenge, an initiative that encourages the proliferation of green products and services. Eden earned second place marks from the competition jury; as the runner-up in the challenge, she took home a €200,000 prize (about US $266,000) to scale-up her venture’s SunSaluter technology.

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Eden Full always wanted to be a scientist. At the age of nine, she entered a science competition and built her first solar car.

Now, at the age of 19, Full is the founder of a company that provides solar power to two villages in Kenya, helping to improve the lives of more than 1,000 residents. And a recent boost could help her company Roseicollis Technologies expand to thousands more: Full was recently named the grand-prize winner of the 2011 Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur (YSE) Competition.

This global competition invites solutions from youth-led organizations that are using innovation and technology to address social issues affecting their communities. Full is a powerful example: since she was nine, she’s been working to help realize the potential of solar energy.

Her company’s primary technology, the SunSaluter, is a cost-effective solar panel rotator that increases the efficiency of solar panels. Full aims to bring alternative energy and electricity to more developing countries, with plans to install the SunSaluter in Tanzania, Uganda, western China, and other places.

Full was one of four winners invited to participate in Techonomy 2011, a prestigious conference for technology leaders held in Tucson, Arizona. At the conference, the four winners went head-to-head, pitching their venture ideas to the Techonomy participants, including more than 20 Ashoka Fellows from around the world.

(Ashoka is Techonomy’s Activation Partner; through “Techonomy +,” participants at the conference also had the opportunity to engage with Ashoka as a changemaker, collaborator, investor, business leader, or even as a parent.)

The audience voted to make Full the grand-prize winner, awarding her with an “Around the World Learning Tour.” The tour will allow her to travel the globe and meet other youth social entrepreneurs, Ashoka Fellows, and Staples associates to further develop her venture’s impact.

“I will do my best to make sure your vote counts for something by scaling the SunSaluter so many people will be able to benefit from the technology,” Full said.

Benefits from the competition go beyond Roseicollis Technologies: one goal of the competition is to inspire others and spread the word. “All of the Staples/Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition winners serve as examples of innovative entrepreneurs through their ventures and are helping to inspire youth to create their own positive change,” said Amy Shanler, director of community relations for Staples, Inc.

“We are so proud to recognize these young technology leaders for their commitment and determination to make a lasting impact in communities around the world.”

This year, the competition received hundreds of entries from 50 countries that address a diverse range of issues, from the environment to healthcare to education. For more information, see the competition web site: www.ashokayouthcompetition.org