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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Student designs solar-powered table

A freshman is asking the University for $5,000 to help him build a solar-powered picnic table and charging dock he designed to promote outdoor student space.

Economics and political science double major Ben Pryde developed a solar energy generator that doubles as an outdoor table on which students can charge laptops, cell phones and other electronics.

Pryde said the generator will educate people about sustainability, give students a place to gather and encourage collaboration among students of different fields.

“We want this to be planned by GW, built by GW and funded by GW. Our goal is to make this clearly a GW thing in all aspects, and I think it would really show how committed GW is to sustainability and how much students are committed to sustainability,” he said.

The table, which is designed to operate year-round, would have a total of 23 outlets. Pryde said it would be able to charge 23 cell phones or about five laptops at once on just solar power. Even without sunlight, the generator can operate on battery power and would be able to charge 23 cell phones for 31 days and 23 laptops for two days.

His top choice for the location is Kogan Plaza. University Yard and Square 80 are other possible locations.

Pryde, also a Student Association senator, submitted the proposal to administrators last week. He said he hopes to see the unit installed before the end of the semester and would like the University to fund more tables in the future.

The SA Senate passed a resolution Monday to ask the University to finance supplies to have students make one table.

Pryde designed and constructed a smaller version of the table with a classmate during his senior year of high school in Seattle. Their design won Best Investment at the 2012 Zino Green Society Investment Forum in the Seed Company competition.

The Office of Sustainability and GW’s sustainability committee are reviewing the proposal and could suggest improvements. He plans to work with the Office of Sustainability and the Department of Facilities to work out funding.

“The Office of Sustainability is thrilled to see that students are developing their own innovative solutions to sustainability challenges, even on campus. It is that entrepreneurial spirit that drives positive change,” said Meghan Chapple-Brown, director of the Office of Sustainability.

Ken Zweibel, director of GW’s Solar Institute and research professor of energy, said the charging unit has a “well thought out design.”

“It seems like a pretty cool idea in the sense that it would be able to show the use of solar energy for the student body,” Zweibel said.

Zweibel said the estimated cost for each unit seems feasible, but that the overall cost for charging a phone on the unit will be more expensive than plugging into a wall socket. Construction costs – which includes a large frame, a battery, many wires and multiple sockets – make the unit more expensive than most solar devices, which are simply modules on a support frame.

Pryde estimated that construction would take between two and four weeks. He said the Residence Hall Association and Green GW both have expressed interest in providing manpower to help put the units together.

“We’ve gotten a lot of student support for it. Every time I tell someone about it, they want to work on it. It interests engineers, political science majors, fine arts majors; basically in any field, people have been interested in it,” he said.

Green GW called the charging station “a great visible reminder of GW’s commitment to sustainability,” the group’s president Isabelle Riu said.

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