GLEI ThinkEnergy Fellows build solar charging picnic table

Members of the Case Western Reserve University community now have a new place to take a seat and recharge–literally.

This spring, a group of students built a picnic table outfitted with solar panels and a battery pack to serve as an outdoor charging station. They installed the table on the quad just in time for the university’s commencement ceremonies in May.

Powered by two, 90-watt solar panels, the battery contains multiple USB ports and AC plugs. It packs enough power to allow multiple people to charge up simultaneously.

“We wanted to create something visible to campus that would make a real difference in people’s lives,” says Elizabeth Freund, one of the project leaders. She says the team was inspired to build the table after watching classmates try to work outside only to have to retreat indoors to charge their devices.

Fellow project leader Jason Pickering says he hopes a readily available, outdoor power source will help the whole campus community enjoy more time outside.

The whole charging station is designed to withstand most of Cleveland’s weather, but the students say they will store it inside during winter months.

The students are part of the university’s ThinkEnergy Fellowship Program–a new initiative spearheaded by the Great Lakes Energy Institute (GLEI) designed to connect Case Western Reserve’s top students with faculty, companies and communities around energy topics to bring energy literacy to campus. The table was the fellows’ first project, undertaken with funding and support from GLEI. The group is also looking to launch at energy club on campus, open to all students interested in energy&45;related projects.

Using a combination of donated and purchased materials, the students used the student project space in Sears think[box] to design and assemble the table and its device&45;charging components. They are currently looking to refine the system and develop ways to track usage and quantify the project’s impact.