College students have often spearheaded uprisings and revolutionary ideas. A group of BYU engineering students is trying to start a solar-cell revolution.
The students are led by a mechanical engineering professor named John Salmon, and they want to install solar cells in all sorts of public places including bus stops, park benches and picnic tables, cafeterias and restaurants, stadium seats, and more. The idea is for the solar cells to provide clean-energy charging spots for personal mobile devices like phones and tablets.
This isn’t just a case of wishful thinking. Their project attracted the attention of the Ford Motor Company Fund, which challenges college students nationwide to find innovative ways to serve their communities, and as a result, BYU received a $25,000 grant to start making the plan a reality.
With the funding, the students are building solar panel tables that allow people to work and charge devices at the same time. They plan to install the tables on the BYU campus and will focus on locations with good window light and high student traffic. One spot may be the common study area in a library.
The other ideas – bus stops, picnic tables, stadium seats – will have to come later. The students also plan to develop an app that allows users of the solar charging spots to track energy savings and motivate other members of the community to become involved.
The hope is to make a difference in the community by reducing the demand for non-renewable resources. Solar tables and bus stops may be small things, but enough small things can add up to something big.
Photo courtesy of BYU.