Wij Inholland award 2018: The Helia (ENG)

“Our biggest dream: to organize a fully sustainable festival.”

A system that magically transforms each parasol into an energy station. That is the Helia. It was on a beautiful summer’s day that Joshua Vasilda, student Sociaal pedagogische hulpverlening at Inholland, Rotterdam, walked through the city of Utrecht and noticed how everyone was enjoying the sun. There were many parasols and he thought it a shame that they were not being used to their full potential. “What if you could use the sun?”

“People are only going to accept sustainability if they’re confronted with it in their daily lives. The more people experience it every day, the more people are going to accept it. Seeing sustainable solutions at mundane locations, such as bus stations, cafes and festivals, people will eventually realize that implementing sustainability doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Solar panels can be quite cheap for example.”

The technology behind this product
“We work with a 3 part system consisting of solar panels, a smart battery designed by The Helia and various outputs such as USB, wirelles charging and LED lights. This enables The Helia to not only charge your phone but also light up the night. We are currently working on a bigger version that could generate enough energy for a whole stage, complete with sound and light”, says Joshua. The Helia is a product of the future, its flexible nature enables it to be used anywhere at any time. Multiple investors have contacted us already. Joshua: “We’ve received an investment of € 50.000,-. This allows us to bring our product to perfection. The prototype is ready, so we can start producing right now. If all goes well, we could test the first series next summer. Our main focus right is getting the product perfect.”

Technology and social work?
One would not expect a student with interests in technology to be a student of Socio-Pedagogical Care. According to Joshua, this has only improves the team. “My studies have helped me in assembling a passionate and dedicated team. I learned how to give and receive feedback. The subject ‘Group Dynamics’ was especially interesting: it provided me with the tools to create a group and let it develop on its own. An autonomous group is one of the best groups one can have. It functions as a whole, but each member acts independently. Going from a group of people that do not know each other to a team that can work seamlessly together is a beautiful thing."

Embracing mistakes
Joshua has one piece of advice. “Just do it. Give it a go. Nobody is going to stop you. There are so many people willing to help you, as long as you ask them. I truly noticed that. Listen to feedback, because there is always a lesson to be learned. I gave a presentation at the finals of Wereld van Morgen (competition of ASN Bank Wereldprijs, red.) and I used many expressions, such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘solar energy’. People use these words too often. They are too abstract. That’s why I started using words, such as micro grids and renewable energy. This gave people a better idea of what our product is. Dreams often seem too far away. Until you’ve reached them, then you realize you can go even further. Mistakes will happen, but learn from them. Love them.”

Wij Inholland
Wij Inholland gives students the opportunity to raise awareness for their projects. A platform on which they can distinguish themselves with an innovative and multidisciplinary project. This project should focus on either health, sustainability or creativity. Moreover, it should also add a regional value by working in close collaboration with a (local) company, institution or community. The winning team receives practical support and a € 2000, - cheque.

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