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Enlightened Learning

MIT undergraduates have created a projector that uses long-lasting light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display the information contained on microfilm. The students see it as an inexpensive teaching tool for Third World countries.

In Mali, where the students tested their projector, many adults attend school at night. Classrooms are often inadequately lit, and school systems usually can’t afford to buy enough books for their pupils. The battery-powered microfilm projector, named Kinkajou after a nocturnal South American mammal with incredibly shiny eyes, solves both problems. The projected image, like a kinkajou’s eyes, is easy to see in the dark, and the microfilm reels, which hold up to 10,000 pages of text, cost less than $25. The projector’s batteries can be recharged using a bicycle-powered generator or solar power.

Beto Peliks ‘03, a mechanical engineering graduate student, says that when he field-tested the projector in Mali during a nighttime literacy course, students were eager to participate in the class because the experience was like watching a movie.

Kinkajou was created with the help of Design That Matters, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve life in developing countries.

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