Humanitarian Design Corps refurbishes outdoor charging station on Case Quad

You may already be familiar with the solar charging table that sits in the Case Quad near the Michaelson-Morely Fountain. Emerging from the center of the table are two solar panel structures that, years ago, were able to power outlet plugs capable of charging devices like phones and laptops, making it easy for the campus community to enjoy the sunshine while studying outside.

Five years ago, the charging station was removed, but the panels remained. As of this month, the Humanitarian Design Corps Solar Squad has made the necessary adjustments to bring it back to life by creating an entire electrical system.

It was important for the team to not just refurbish the charging station, but make changes that were sustainable and ensured long term use of the power. Nolan Sayer, a third-year mechanical engineering student and president of the organization, shared that the considerations were slightly different for this project than similar ones in the past. 

Having recently completed a bus stop with motion activated lights, Sayer compared the two projects, pointing out that motion activated lights with a use only at night time required far less power than a charging station meant to power laptops during all hours of the day. While the bus stop light was charging during the day and used power to turn on the lights in the evening, the quad table would need to convert power while it provided it. 

Plus, during past projects, the team built their solar panels and mounting from scratch. In this scenario, they had to work with what they had. 

“We just had to adapt,” Sayer shared. “It’s interesting to have an engineering challenge and not be able to control all the factors.”

In addition to all of these considerations, the team also wanted to be sure the table served as an educational tool, helping users understand solar energy. So, all electronics that power the outlet are packaged in a clear box with labeled graphics that explain how solar energy works. 

Now, the charging station is ready for use, just in time for some of Cleveland’s best weather and Solar Squad team lead Kevin Harris is looking forward to seeing it utilized. 

“What excites me about this project is that it will leave a tangible mark on campus,” the second-year electrical engineering student shared. “I'm really proud of the work my team has done and all that we have learned along the way. I am especially excited because once this project is in place, it could act as a proof of concept for more similar solar chargers in the future.”

This revamp will add a new outdoor space for members of the community to work and learn. With the exception of a small space along the path next to the Mandel School, Harris points out there are not many other places on campus where students can comfortably work outside with easy access to a power outlet. 

To learn more about the Humanitarian Design Corps, reach out to Nolan Sayer