As a college student at a small liberal arts college, I find that my constant companion through the school day is my backpack. I began to notice this early on and asked for a fashionable canvas backpack for Christmas last year. It was a modest ask as I found a bargain on Amazon for $25. I wanted a small pack as I found that I didn’t need to carry around half a dozen textbooks. Just my laptop and occasionally my tablet. As the term went on, I came into possession of a Bluetooth speaker capsule and added it to my everyday carry. The thought came to me to transform my backpack into a technology hub. I imagined ample external charging ports and a built-in rechargeable battery. I let the thought fester in the back of my mind as a zoned out of introductory Economics classes. While walking around campus I thought of solar energy and did a quick search on Amazon for “solar panel” do discover that there were ready-made panels for attaching to backpacks at a relatively low cost. The plan was set into motion.
I cut a hole the size of a small USB hub I had laying around. I disassembled the hub, sandwiched it inside the hole and super glued it so that the hubs face out of the pack. I ordered my battery, a massive 20000mah cell capable of charging my HTC One M8 from 0-100% about 7 times on a full charge. It’s not that I was expecting to drain my phone this much but rather I wanted enough capacity to ensure that every ounce of juice from my 13W solar panel would be captured. After cutting more holes to route cords through on my pack and using a zip-tie to fasten a Velcro strap to the top of the pack to hold the panel, it was ready.
I spend sunny afternoons outside doing homework and listening to music from my Bluetooth speaker. This setup ensures that my devices will not die on me either in sun or shade thanks to the battery. The battery gets a sip of charge whenever I walk to my next class or make a hurried bike trip to the local Walmart. This will be especially useful in the summer as I begin the Entrepreneurship for the Public Good (EPG) summer institute. My cohort and I will be helping to stimulate the tourist economy in Berea Kentucky. To gain an understanding of the types of attractions here we will be hiking Appalachian trails, biking, canoeing and other outdoor activities. My new backpack will ensure that my phone and other electronics maintain a charge. And those USB hubs will mean I’ll have room to charge the phones of the less-prepared cohort members that I’m sure will be fretting as their battery approaches 0%.