Blog of Urs Riggenbach

Announcing Partnership with Plan International Finland and SmartUp Factory programme in Uganda

Posted Friday 13 July 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

In partnership with Plan International Finland and Plan International Uganda, we are starting a new cooperation in Uganda providing our SOL5 solar concentrators and educational trainings to the SmartUp Factory program.

SmartUp Factory is driven by the idea that "since the poor and marginalized youth experience the challenges in their community and society first hand they are in a crucial position to identify those challenges and come up with innovative solutions to them."

Every month, Plain International Uganda is welcoming 20-30 new youths to the
venue and they receive full access to the mentoring, trainings and equipment. The program is currently running in six locations in Uganda.

In this project, GoSol is providing SOL5 units, hands on trainings, theoretical lessons and support with the incubation of solar bakeries.

We are excited about this partnership and the potential to empower more and more entrepreneurs with our SOL5 through education.

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SmartUp Factory has empowered over 3500 young people from Uganda with the skills needed for social entrepreneurship.

This was AU London 2018

Posted Friday 22 June 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

This week Eerik and I got to attend the Autodesk University conference and Impact Summit in London. Autodesk University brings together industry leaders in manufacturing and construction to learn about the trends and emerging technologies Autodesk enables with their software tools, and how we can use these tools to boost our impact.

In addition to the breath of courses and keynotes, Autodesk Foundation organized the fifth installment of their Impact Summit, which gave us the chance to connect face-to-face with some of the other social enterprises and impact-oriented organizations the Foundation is supporting. It was inspiring to meet changemakers in architecture, health, IoT and solar, and exchange in a series of workshops and presentations our learnings, challenges and best practices. It was great getting an overview on all the progress that is made to democratize access to basic needs, like energy. At the same time, much work remains.

AU London: Many interesting keynotes such as this one by Build Health International, an Autodesk Foundation grantee.
Connecting with Philippe Videau of the Autodesk Forge team.
Out and about with other Autodesk Foundation grantees.


Convergence of manufacturing and construction

The main theme at AU London was the convergence of the construction and manufacturing industries. The trend in construction is towards much more pre-fabricated, manufacturing-like deployments, while the fabrication industry is getting into much more unique, individualized production as seen in construction. In many ways both industries are converging which brings new possibilities.


Autodesk Forge

We also got to take full advantage of the many courses and workshops offered at AU. Very interesting for us was learning about Autodesk Forge, a tool that allows for cloud-based design adaptations, among other things. We are very excited about this new tool and where it’s going.



It was also great learning about Autodesk’s commitment to foster education in Sub Saharan Africa, thinking about how we can expand our cooperation beyond Student Design Challenges like the one we did with UNHCR and Worldskills, and start to empower students directly with our solar technology.


Birmingham Tech Center

Last but not least we got to visit Autodesk’s Birmingham tech center, which is a cutting edge facility working with industry leaders to push what’s possible in digital fabrication. This is one of four tech centers Autodesk operates, last year we were at their San Francisco location, Pier 9. They are serious about CNC, additive and subtractive manufacturing, but we can’t resist to share this video of them using a robotic arm to machine a block of Choccolate to create an easter bunny. Must watch!

Back in San Francisco, Interviewing Near Future Summit
and Autodesk on Sustainability and Impact

Posted Monday 21 May 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

Interview with Zem Joaquin, founder of Near Future Summit as she mentions her favourite quote by Bill McDonough: “We need to love all children of all species for all time.”

After a great showcase of the SOL5 at Near Future Summit, Will and I returned to San Francisco early last week. Apart from following up on the many conversations started at the conference, we had the pleasure to interview some of the inspiring people that are building the near future.

We got to interview Zem Joaquin, founder of Near Future Summit and learn about her inspiring approach to sustainability, as well as staff members of Autodesk Foundation that are supporting our work. This post covers some impressions from the interviews.

Joe Speicher, Executive Director at Autodesk Foundation, on how Autodesk Foundation is advancing design for impact.
Jean Shia, Head of Portfolio & Investment at Autodesk Foundation talking about how they supported our piloting phase.
Ryan Macpherson, Portfolio and Investment Manager at Autodesk Foundation talking about his first-hand experience visiting to our Kenya bakers.
Ben Thompson, Head of Employee Impact at Autodesk, talking about Autodesk's pro-bono programme for employees to support impact initiatives.

More to come. Stay tuned!

Showcasing the SOL5 at Near Future Summit

Posted Friday 11 May 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

Today we had an amazing showcase of our SOL5 at Near Future Summit! Everyone got to experience the power of the sun, snack some tasty solar cookies and learn about our impact.

This was an exciting opportunity for us to spread awareness on solar thermal and make new connections to boost our impact.

Here are a few snapshots of the event.

The SOL5 in full steam: Baking solar cookies for the inspiring crowd at Near Future Summit 2018.
The first batch of solar cookies comes out of the SOL5.
Baking at 400°F we were able to run many batches during lunchtime.
Will Cleaver of in front of our stand at the conference.

Solar Baking Demo at Pier 9, California

Posted Friday 4 May 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

Today we did a solar bake at Autodesk’s Pier 9, as part of our preparation for next week’s Near Future Summit. A curious crowd of people stopped by to see the SOL5 in action, and we spent a sunny afternoon baking pizzas, cookies, and my new favourite: "Pão de queijo" - Brazilian cheese bread.

As you can see we finished the paint work we blogged about earlier, and now our SOL5 shines in red! Here are our impressions of the day.

Liz Nugent, Brand Partnership Manager at Autodesk, with Will and Urs of the GoSol team. Liz facilitated our participation at Near Future Summit and will be with us next week in San Diego.
A curious crowd of people from Autodesk, Pier 9 and Autodesk Foundation joined our demo.
Oven at 375°F / 190°C - perfect baking temperature for Brazilian Cheese Bread - Pão de queijo
Not even when you see it you believe it. But touch the solar heat and you will know!
Trent Still, Workshop Manager at Autodesk Pier 9, taking a break from working in Pier 9's amazing CNC shop and sharing with us the first bite of solar baked cookies!
Beto Borges, Director at Forest Trends, thinking about how this technology could empower indigenous people of the Amazon. And yes, he is the one who brought the Pão de queijo!
The first freshly baked goods are ready. We left the pizzas in a bit longer and heated the oven to 500°F / 260°C to get them nice and crisp!

Our Californian Solar Concentrator turns One Year Old!

Posted Thursday 3 May 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

The SOL5 solar concentrator we built during our Impact Residency at Pier 9 last year just turned 1. It was safely tucked away in storage taking up precious space at the Pier, but when Will and I reached the Pier last week, we were relieved that the technology easily stores and all pieces kept. We were able to assemble the SOL5 in under an hour and get it back to working temperatures! Big thanks to Sherry and Pier 9 team for taking care of it so well!

During the Impact Residency our focus was on applying CNC and other digital fabrication technologies to our manufacturing process. The CNC based fabrication method allows for super fast installation time, and all parts are now flat and shippable. One thing we didn’t have time for was a proper paint job for the SOL5, and now the bare metal pieces have caught some rust from the salty sea air.

At the time of this post, Will and I have already scrubbed down most of the rust, and will be in the shop the next 2 days doing the paint works. Happy birthday Pier 9 SOL5!

Here are few snaps from the first assembly test:

Will Cleaver inspecting the mirrors that were in storage. They have kept very well.
Urs Riggenbach, happy to see the oven functioning after a smooth assembly with all parts working.
Pointing out the rust that needs to be removed before the paint job.

Next week we’ll be taking this SOL5 on quite a ride: Roadtrip down to La Jolla, San Diego, where we’ll be showcasing it at Near Future Summit.

Before I get back to the shop, the color we are going to paint it in is: Glossy red. It’s going to look great. Stay tuned for more!

Announcing Partnership with TAMK

Posted Friday 27 April 2018 by Urs Riggenbach.

Tampere University of Applied Sciences is a higher education institution oriented towards working life and RDI co-operation. Their strengths are multidisciplinary education, creativity, and a strong international dimension.

Our cooperation with TAMK is focused on advancing sustainable development through final theses projects, lecturing and co-creation projects. We are supervising students interested in our technology and we are preparing summer school projects together.

Our project being deeply rooted in education since the beginning, we are more than happy to see that this partnership is working very well since a few months already!

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