Insufficient outdoor workplaces with outlets continues to be a major problem for students living and studying on Northwestern’s campus. Furthermore, renewable energy installations on campus thus far have been limited to a few sites, despite its prominence in Northwestern’s Strategic Sustainability Plan (SSP). As such, the SmartTree project group aspires to address these distinct areas in its creation of Northwestern’s first mobile, solar-powered charging and work station.
The current design consists of a triangular base that supports two solar panels with the ability to provide power to 2 AC outlets and up to 6 USB ports. Benches and tables located on the perimeter of the structure will also allow users to work or conduct other activities outdoors while charging their devices. Currently, the SmartTree design is fully scoped in CAD following feedback from two design reviews with industry experts, extensive training in the Northwestern Engineering Research Shop, and preliminary user testing with over 60 students. The physical electrical system has also been assembled, tested and approved by Northwestern’s Facilities Management Department. Moving forward, the project is currently focused on improving the SmartTree’s user interface (i.e. tables, benches, outlets), finalizing the prototype design, and preparing to build upon returning to campus this fall.
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