Universities explore charging stations as a way to provide better customer service and help students academically.
As students bring more mobile devices on campus, universities are searching for ways to keep them charged up so they don't have to stop learning.
Last year, California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), experienced a 16 percent increase in the number of mobile devices on its network. Students scoured the walls for plugs to charge their mobile devices and didn't always find enough.
"We really just have to embrace it because of the fact that there's such a large consumerization of technology in all areas, not just in higher ed," said Gerard Au, associate vice president of Information Technology Services at CSUSB.
To deal with this increase in demand for wireless, the university upgraded its wired network and updated its wireless network to the latest 802.11ac standard so students would have enough bandwidth.
With that problem handled, CSUSB installed 40 wireless charging stations this month in common spaces, restaurants, study areas and the student union so students could continue studying while charging their devices at their side. In the second wave of implementation, the charging stations will appear in the library and classroom spaces.
Through an app, students can see which stations have charging spots available, and later this year, they'll see messages from the university about campus events. On the IT side, a central dashboard allows staff members to monitor the charging spots for connectivity problems.
Across the country, Webster University in St. Louis is putting sustainability efforts to work on power stations for students and faculty. The university's EnGo charging station outside a LEED Gold certified building has 12 installed chargers, two USB ports and two wireless charging pads that operate like the ones at CSUSB.
But instead of using power from the wall, this station gets its power from its solar panels and kinetic energy tiles laid down in front of it. The station also includes a campus map and event notices to engage the campus community.
Along with the stationary charging station, Webster University has a portable one that representatives take to regional events and festivals. This station serves as a recruiting and retention tool with its large university logo and place to charge devices.
A university administrator saw a different charging station at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and observed how the 12 people who were charging their devices at it were talking to each other. These people wouldn't normally interact because they didn't know each other, but the charging station brought them together.
Along with that experience, a graduate of Webster University Geneva wanted the college's St. Louis campus to be the first one to have an EnGo power station, which his team designed at a company he created called the Volta Group. The station aligned with the university's sustainability goals and would become a hangout spot for campus residents from different departments.
"We need to create an opportunity for students and faculty to really function as a community," said Greg Gunderson, vice president and chief financial officer at Webster University.