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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

BloomBox Solar Learning Labs for Girls' Education

BloomBox Design Labs (
Private sector

    BloomBox Design Labs brings access to high-quality STEAM education to secondary schools without access to electricity or technology, including in rural and remote and off-grid environments. The BloomBox initiative uses a design thinking approach to create adaptive, modular, secure, solar-powered, state-of-the-art STEAM learning infrastructure. BloomBoxes are inviting, inclusive indoor-outdoor learning spaces, built from upcycled shipping containers with retractable solar roof systems, and equipped with digital multimedia educational resources that enable students to define and pursue their passions in STEAM fields. The objective of BloomBox Design Labs is to make high quality education accessible to every student, and to help close socioeconomic and gender disparities in STEAM fields.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The first ever BloomBox (BB) was designed and built by Sofie Roux and her team in Vancouver, Canada. All the BloomBoxes to follow have been built from her refined and patented designs in South Africa.

    The implementation methodology is summarized below.
    1- Site is determined by local BloomBox team, in coordination with potential partner site - based on several factors including:
    a) Proximity to secondary school or community center serving surrounding secondary school students
    b) Minimum number of students 400+
    c) Educators available and interested in teaching students using computers
    d) Leader identified to oversee daily, weekly, monthly, and annual care and management of BB
    e) Security of chosen site - fencing and security guard

    2- Once site is determined, fundraising begins
    3- Shipping container manufacturing and site-specific configuration , take place in South Africa. Design and build considerations include integration with existing education infrastructure, geographic position (to optimize sunlight exposure), and creation of inclusive spaces that accommodate projected use. The patented retractable solar roof system (RSRS), which opens like a flower in the day to expose solar panels to the sun and closes at night for security, increases the transportability, modularity, security, and sustainability of the BB.
    4- BB and RSRS transported to Malawi from South Africa
    5- Local receiving team begins construction of concrete foundation before BB arrival
    6- Installation team meets shipment to begin assembly
    7- Electrical system and all technology tested
    8- Teacher orientation to the BB occurs concurrently with build and testing
    9- This process takes 12 weeks, after which solar system system and educational server use are remotely monitored on an ongoing basis
    10- SIte leaders, local BB Team, and BB North America Team meet monthly remotely, and as needed
    11- Surveys are administered at each site and reviewed to gauge student, educator, and site leadership use, satisfaction, and evolving educational requirements

    The lab serves students in the area with 20 laptop computers connected to a remote access server with a rich library of educational resources. The classroom space itself is well lit, with mobile furniture, storage, teacher supplies, and a back-up generator to ensure learning can continue even in unexpected environmental conditions. Surveys of student experience are taken monthly following installation of the lab, and student content is constantly updated based on student interest and teacher requests.

    Arrangements for Capacity-Building and Technology Transfer

    BloomBox Design Labs has been successful due to deep partnerships built and maintained over years. Malawi team leads include Peter Kauya, a former Director of New Beginnings Secondary School, the site of the first BB installation, and Davis Galero, community leader and member of partner organization Water Wells for Africa for the past 20 years. Our leads visit interested schools, educational organizations, community centers, and sites to meet with local leaders and evaluate the potential for a BloomBox deployment. Once a site is selected, Malawi government approval through the Government of Malawi and Ministry of Homeland Security is obtained. Partner organizations, such as the UNHCR and PLAN International join the conversation for sustainability of the initiative. Once on the ground, teachers and local leaders are trained with the technology in a two day training course, with monthly expert visits for any follow up questions. Laptops are monitored remotely in the months to follow. The local BB implementation team has gained significant expertise in logistics, construction, and photovoltaic installation.

    Coordination mechanisms

    BloomBox Design Labs was founded by Sofie Roux, a Stanford University undergraduate student, and now is registered as a US Public Benefit Company. Her team has grown to include experts and technicians in Canada, South Africa, and Malawi. BloomBoxes are designed by Sofie Roux, manufactured completely within the Southern African Development Community, and shipped to remote locations in Malawi. BloomBoxes are installed at partner schools or sites selected by local leadership teams in Malawi, or by the UNHCR, and approved by the Malawi Government. Long term success of installed BloomBox labs is ensured by formation of local community leadership teams that take ownership and oversee BloomBox operations.


    Over the past three years, BloomBox installations have yielded tangible results. BloomBox has employed over 50 people, 80% of whom live in the South African Development Community (South Africa and Malawi). By moving the construction process to the SADC, most parts of the BloomBox are now sourced in South Africa, and the solar array is sourced from Malawi distributors.
    BloomBox Design Labs brings a design thinking approach to educational access to create tailored solutions based on local needs. Our approach includes the integration of off-grid solar power; modular architecture that complements existing infrastructure; design of indoor-outdoor spaces to create welcoming learning environments; use of computers, servers and other educational technologies to support local educational curricula; and frequent measurement and evaluation of results. We have also patented aspects of the design, including a retractable solar roof system to increase the security and transportability of our BloomBoxes, and that may have commercial applications beyond education infrastructure. With three BloomBoxes installed so far, serving over 5,000 students, we have seen evidence of changed educational experience including:
    - Solar power use data suggesting heavy daily computer use at schools that until BloomBox installation did not have access to electricity or computers
    - Educational server data showing deep and wide use of educational resources and student research
    - Survey data that shows a high degree of satisfaction among students and educators alike, and a desire for more use of the labs for all aspects of the educational curriculum
    - Anecdotal data that standardized test scores increase following BloomBox installation
    We have literally seen new worlds open up to students who had never had access to technology before.


    UNHCR, PLAN International, Malawi Ministry of Education (Science, Technology and Innovation), Malawi Ministry of Homeland Security, Fountain of Hope Youth Center, Water Wells for Africa, Othakarhaka Foundation, New Beginnings Secondary School

    Goal 4

    Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

    Goal 4


    By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes


    Proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex


    Completion rate (primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education)


    By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education


    Proportion of children aged 24–59 months who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being, by sex


    Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by sex


    By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university


    Participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex


    By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship


    Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill


    By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations

    Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected, as data become available) for all education indicators on this list that can be disaggregated


    By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy


    Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex


    By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development


    Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education and (d) student assessment


    Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all


    Proportion of schools offering basic services, by type of service


    By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries

    Volume of official development assistance flows for scholarships by sector and type of study


    By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States


    Proportion of teachers with the minimum required qualifications, by education level

    Goal 5

    Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

    Goal 5


    End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere


    Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex


    Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

    Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age


    Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by age and place of occurrence


    Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

    Proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18


    Proportion of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age


    Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate


    Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location


    Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life


    Proportion of seats held by women in (a) national parliaments and (b) local governments


    Proportion of women in managerial positions


    Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences


    Proportion of women aged 15-49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care


    Number of countries with laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged 15 years and older to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education


    Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws


    (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure


    Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control


    Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

    Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex


    Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels


    Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment

    Goal 7

    Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

    Goal 7


    By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services


    Proportion of population with access to electricity


    Proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology


    By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

    Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption


    By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

    Energy intensity measured in terms of primary energy and GDP


    By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology

    International financial flows to developing countries in support of clean energy research and development and renewable energy production, including in hybrid systems


    By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support


    Installed renewable energy-generating capacity in developing and developed countries (in watts per capita)

    Goal 9

    Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

    Goal 9


    Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all

    Proportion of the rural population who live within 2 km of an all-season road


    Passenger and freight volumes, by mode of transport


    Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries


    Manufacturing value added as a proportion of GDP and per capita


    Manufacturing employment as a proportion of total employment


    Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets

    Proportion of small-scale industries in total industry value added


    Proportion of small-scale industries with a loan or line of credit


    By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities


    COemission per unit of value added


    Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending

    Research and development expenditure as a proportion of GDP


    Researchers (in full-time equivalent) per million inhabitants


    Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States

    Total official international support (official development assistance plus other official flows) to infrastructure


    Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities

    Proportion of medium and high-tech industry value added in total value added


    Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020


    Proportion of population covered by a mobile network, by technology

    Goal 11

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    Goal 11


    By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums


    Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing


    By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

    Proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries

    Ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate


    Proportion of cities with a direct participation structure of civil society in urban planning and management that operate regularly and democratically


    Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage


    Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional, and local/municipal)


    By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations


    Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population


    Direct economic loss attributed to disasters in relation to global domestic product (GDP)


    (a) Damage to critical infrastructure and (b) number of disruptions to basic services, attributed to disasters


    By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management


    Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities out of total municipal waste generated, by cities


    Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5 and PM10) in cities (population weighted)


    By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

    Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    Proportion of persons victim of non-sexual or sexual harassment, by sex, age, disability status and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months


    Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning


    Number of countries that have national urban policies or regional development plans that (a) respond to population dynamics; (b) ensure balanced territorial development; and (c) increase local fiscal space


    By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels


    Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030


    Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies


    Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

    Goal 13

    Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

    Goal 13


    Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries


    Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population


    Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030


    Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies


    Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning


    Number of countries with nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies, national adaptation plans and adaptation communications, as reported to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


    Total greenhouse gas emissions per year


    Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning


    Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment


    Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible


    Amounts provided and mobilized in United States dollars per year in relation to the continued existing collective mobilization goal of the $100 billion commitment through to 2025


    Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities



    Number of least developed countries and small island developing States with nationally determined contributions, long-term strategies, national adaptation plans and adaptation communications, as reported to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

    Name Description
    Increase capacity of local BloomBox teams in installation and maintenance of solar power and advanced education technology
    Train teachers at all sites in the use of computer technology in supporting national curricula and evaluation
    Install an additional 20 BloomBoxes in educational environments in Southern Africa
    Financing (in USD)
    10ft custom modified shipping container + Patented retractable solar power roof with solar system + Off-grid solar power
    Financing (in USD)
    Learning infrastructure (mobile desks, chalkboards, projector, printer) + Computer charging station with 20 laptops, server with a vast digital library
    Financing (in USD)
    A secure, bright learning space, An indoor-outdoor off-grid, solar-powered makerspace to support the learning of 40 students at a time
    Staff / Technical expertise
    Design, construction, installation and upkeep team
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    partnerships banner
    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    25 July 2019 (start date)
    25 September 2025 (date of completion)
    Geographical coverage
    Vancouver, Canada
    Other beneficiaries

    So far, the BloomBox Initiative has built educational capacity that has benefited thousands of students.

    Installation of Computer Lab - Baphumelele Childrens’ Home, Khayelitsha, SA
    Installation of sanitary pad machine to promote girls’ school attendance - Fountain of Hope Youth Center, Cape Town, SA
    BloomBox 1.0 - New Beginnings Secondary School, Blantyre, MW
    BloomBox 2.0 - Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje, MW
    BloomBox 3.0 - Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Dzaleka, MW

    We have had the privilege of working with the Malawi Ministry of Education (Science, Technology, and Innovation) and to receive their critical guidance, and their approval to scale the BloomBox to 70 schools in Malawi.

    South Africa
    South Africa
    Contact Information

    Sofie Roux, Founder and CEO of BloomBox Design Labs