Rowe robotics team in Rancho Santa Fe creates solar phone chargers for upcoming competition


The Solar Cyclers, the sixth-grade robotics team from R. Roger Rowe School, are competing Nov. 7 in the FLL International Robotics Challenge in Escondido.

More than 233,000 children from ages 9 and up compete in this challenge around the world.

Besides designing a robot and competing on a robotics course with a garbage theme, the team competed in this year’s Project Challenge, called “Trash Trek.”

They were tasked with identifying a problem with how garbage is managed, and then to design an innovative solution.

The Solar Cyclers decided to design a solar telephone charger, made completely out of discarded garden solar garden stakes and discarded phone cords. They asked friends and neighbors in Rancho Santa Fe, many landscapers, and even friends on Facebook to send them their broken garden solar lights. They were surprised that so many people gave the team their broken solar items, and they were even more excited about how their concept worked!

With this scrap, they built solar-based phone chargers and decided to distribute them to the homeless. They learned about voltage meters, amperage readers, and how to solder. They met with community mentors, including at the Waste Management robotic sorting facility, different electronics recycling facilities, a local patent attorney, and engineers from Qualcomm.

The Solar Cyclers decided to take the project a step further. They made several solar phone chargers and presented the idea to Interfaith Community services, which provides various support services to the homeless. They dressed in costume and performed a rap, met with the Volunteer Services Coordinator, and came up with a plan for the solar-powered phone chargers to be accessible to their homeless clients.

The Solar Cyclers are heading to the competition soon, but they plan to continue their project. They are asking anybody who would like to contribute their broken garden solar stakes or lights, old phones, or phone chargers to contact them at