Illuminating LuminAid

Clare Hardiman Every year at Latin, a few speakers come and talk to the student body about a variety of topics. At a typical assembly, we are sitting down for an hour listening to an author discuss their latest book or hearing a lecture about internet safety. But this year’s first speaker was one of the best to ever come to Latin: Anna Stork. She is the co-founder of LuminAid, a company working to build solar LED lights for people in need of light after natural disasters. The product can also be used for hikers in Yosemite, backpackers in Whistler, or emergency workers in Nepal. LuminAid lights have been distributed and used in seventy different countries. The idea of building a company of their own came to co-founders Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta during their attendance at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture. For a semester project, they were asked to design a product to aid the victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. They realized that when most people think of basic human needs, they often think of food, water, and shelter. However, Anna and Andrea had a different idea. They knew how dangerous and scary the conditions at night were; Haitians didn’t know who they were sleeping with or near and spent the whole day trying to figure out where they would spend the night. After realizing that light was an overlooked necessity, they began working to build a light source that could last for a long period of time. The moment that Anna started talking about LuminAid and its initiative, everyone in the theatre became silent. She first showed us a video of her debuting her product on Shark Tank where she negotiated a deal with Mark Cuban. The fact that she was on this show intrigued a lot of students and teachers. One student, Briannah Cook, said that “it was a nice change of pace from all the other gatherings that are usually more superficial. It was really amazing how their product was innovative enough to be on Shark Tank and how their product has helped so many people live through natural disasters.” To use LuminAid’s innovative invention, you must follow three basic steps. First, the solar panel has to be charged outside in direct sunlight for three hours. Then, the user inflates a plastic container that holds the light. Lastly, the user can activate the ‘on’ switch. The ingenuity behind the product’s design inspired “students to think about innovation and inventing,” said freshman Cynthia Ramirez. Throughout my four years at Latin, I have noticed the drive within students to reach for their dreams, whether they be in the professional, athletic, or academic realms. Freshman Alberto Lopez was particularly inspired by this speaker, saying that she “set a good example for students” and showed them that you can build something up to be what you want it to be. It is very difficult for some people to realize their own dreams or see that they are in fact achievable until someone else sets an example for them. The general consensus is that this was one of the most engaging speakers to come to Latin. According to Senior Kathryn Stender, what made Anna so engaging were “her props, which allowed her to be so interactive.” Kathryn added that Anna was also “very open to answering questions about anything.” But, to History teacher Mr. Cruz, Anna’s message is what made her so engaging. “You didn’t have to dig very hard to get at the importance of message. Sometimes we have a speaker and students have to dig to get at the message. It was more accessible.” Especially for tired and distractible high school students, it is difficult to find a speaker who appeals to everyone. Sometimes, for example, an author will come and talk about a book whose genre is not engaging to everyone. Mr. Cruz summarizes the whole experience well. “I think what was interesting to me was the utility of the product she came up with. What was inspiring was watching how engaged the students were and how many students I talked to who now want to make their ideas a reality. I have seen few speakers who have gotten students fired up in a positive way.”]]>