Students at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), supported by Vertiv have designed a light, modern solar solution to enable students to charge their mobile devices under the sun on campus.

The ‘Tower of Power’ is an off-grid kiosk built with lightweight but durable materials and fitted with solar panels positioned for optimum efficiency. The kiosk has eight seats in and around it to allow students to sit down and interact while their devices charge. It’s also connected to an application that allows students to see how many ports are available at any time.

“We challenged design students to propose a structure for a smart solar mobile charging station,” said Vishnu Kumar Arun, president, QUT Electrical Engineering Student Society (QUT EESS).

“The students went above and beyond and created something that is truly innovative and that embodies the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics projects developed by our engineering team.”

The winning students, chosen from four finalists in the competition, worked closely with the  engineering teams of QUT EESS to modify the solution design for fabrication and real-world implementation and are now field testing it on campus. The hope is to expand on the project and get similar kiosks in place in other universities and organisations countrywide with a commercially viable solution.

Vertiv, which sponsored the competition and worked closely with the University to help secure the right batteries for the solution, has been inspired by the project and has ordered its own model of the kiosk to showcase to local government customers around the country as a potential tool for their IoT goals. The critical infrastructure company is also hoping to have a demonstration of the kiosk at Smart Cities Week in October.

“This simple yet innovative idea and execution of it has been a joy to be a part of,” said Alan Smith, senior solutions architect, Vertiv ANZ. “This kind of idea is vital to the successful development of IoT and smart cities in Australia, and to make sure environmental efficiency is considered in line with infrastructure that makes sense for people.”

“Charging mobile devices isn’t the largest burden on the grid, but it still plays its part,” added Kirk Wetherell, associate director national sales, Vertiv ANZ. “This is a fusion of cool architecture and clever engineering and the result is an energy-efficient solution which could be used in a huge variety of settings.”

“We wanted to design something innovative and aesthetically pleasing,” said Lydia Carlton, co-designer of the Tower of Power. “But we also felt it was important to make it an area where students could sit down and socialise while their devices charged; so we added seating to the inside and outside to cater for different weather.”

“It’s a rare opportunity to collaborate on something that will have a direct positive impact on students,” added Nikita Tongia, co-designer of the project. “QUT has great initiatives supporting both sustainability and IoT and we felt this solution fitted in well with both.”