But the children also provided valuable feedback. They all wanted it to be brighter, Stork says, so she and Sreshta looked at ways to change the positioning of the LED to provide better light without adding an extra bulb. "There's always a balance between keeping the cost really low, and also making it competitive with some of the similar solar lanterns that are out there in terms of its brightness and performance," says Stork.
For example, the pair originally wanted to use a flexible solar panel, but it drove the cost too high, so for now they are using a rigid panel. Stork and Sreshta estimate that, in volume, they can get the cost of each Luminaid unit to below $6. The d.light, in comparison, is around $10.
There are, of course, questions about durability. The lights need to be designed to go into some very difficult situations. Stork and Sreshta say the Luminaid is designed to last, with heavy use, for about two years. And disposal? Well, you would just throw it away.
When I asked them if they worried about used Luminaid lights eventually lining roadsides around the globe as litter, they admitted it was a concern and said they were working on a new design that would incorporate biodegradable plastic.
The team are also looking at ways that the Luminaid can be used in situations beyond natural disasters. With more than a quarter of the world's population without access to electricity, there seems to be plenty of room for a low-cost lighting product like LuminAID. They also don't see any reason why their product could not be sold in outdoor stores, and used by hikers and campers.
Luminaid just completed a funding drive on the crowd funding platform IndieGoGo. The project asked for $10,000, but raised more than $51,000. Taking inspiration from the low-cost computer project One Laptop Per Child’s “give one, get one” campaign, they also ran a "give light, get light" campaign – if you bought a LuminAID light for someone in the developing world, you got one for yourself as well.
Individuals in 25 different countries bought lights, and more than 3,000 units were distributed to 10 organisations in Africa and Asia.
Not bad for a student project.