Green EDGE Fund Installs Solar-Powered Outdoor Workstation – The Oberlin Review

This summer, after more than a year of planning, the college’s Green EDGE Fund installed a solar-powered outdoor workstation with charging ports, LED lights, and Wi-Fi connectivity that is now available to students, faculty, and community members.

Located in front of the north entrance of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, the workstation is equipped with six 120V outlets, five dual-port USB/USB-C outlets, and two Qi wireless chargers. It also uses LED lighting for nighttime use and connects to the college’s public Wi-Fi to boost the signal for users.

The Workstation project was originally proposed by Justin Lee, OC ’22, a former board member of the Green EDGE Fund. During the 2021 summer semester, when students were on campus but primarily attending classes virtually, Lee noticed that many students were struggling to complete online schoolwork outside.

“Ohio is beautiful in the summer, so during the summer semester I saw a lot of students working outside,” Lee said. “[There were] A lot of the frustrations come from the students, whether it’s no internet or really bad internet connections – especially at Wilder Bowl – and if you needed to charge your laptop you had to go back inside.”

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During the same summer semester, the Green EDGE Fund had also worked with community members to develop potential new structures and spaces across campus that would serve as shared spaces where students and community members could interact to strengthen ties between cities.

Lee’s workstation proposal served as a solution to both problems, and Lee worked with the Green EDGE Fund Board of Directors and Facilities Operations to initiate the project.

“The Green EDGE Fund went one step further and asked, ‘How can we integrate sustainability into this? How can we address other issues we’ve had?’” Lee said.

Sionainn Rudek, a college fourth grader and current Board Chair of the Green EDGE Fund, was involved in the Workstation Project’s approval and research process. They found that the project proposal was well received by students and university staff.

“I think it’s been received very positively by everyone involved, so it’s been moving forward really quickly, which has been great,” said Rudek.

Ben Hobbs, AJLC facility manager and community outreach coordinator, was also involved in planning the workplace, particularly when it came to determining the location of the station.

“I worked with Becky Bode from Grounds [Service] to determine the best location that will also allow for delivery and enough sun to keep the batteries charged,” Hobbs wrote in an email to the review. “I originally hoped that a wide-open, south-facing location at the Wilder Bowl would be the best location, but those areas would have hindered access and were rejected as the first locations.”

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Lee mentioned that the table’s location should be more central on campus to improve accessibility. However, according to Rudek, the table still sees a lot of use in its current location.

“I’ve only walked past it a few times, but every time I’ve walked past someone has been sitting on it,” Rudek said. “It was faculty members, one student and one other student, so it was already a diverse group of people using it, which to me is really amazing.”

Aside from serving as a functional workspace, Lee explained that the workspace is an important structure on campus in shaping student perspectives on sustainability at the college, particularly when viewed in the context of the four-year Sustainable Infrastructure Project.

“While [SIP] is a great thing, it’s very underground,” Lee said. “Nothing you see there is visible or tangible. We also wanted to provide something… that you can interact with, something that the students can touch… and we decided to do that through a solar table. They can charge their devices with any renewable energy, which I find pretty handy.”

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According to Hobbs, if the workstation is popular, there’s a chance that Facilities will install more on campus.

“[Bode] …evaluates their use, ease of ordering, delivery, branding, and how they are received by the campus community to decide how many more to purchase and place on campus,” Hobbs said. “If it’s popular, I would expect to see more soon.”

Although Lee graduated before the workstation was officially installed, he emphasized how much he learned from working with the Green EDGE Fund Board in the project’s planning process.

“[Installing the table] was a great learning experience and I hope it inspires other students to realize that the Green EDGE Fund is a huge resource if they want to undertake a sustainable project,” said Lee. “This table was just a dream of mine and a member of the community and we made it a reality.”

The Green EDGE Fund is currently accepting applications for future sustainability projects. In particular, the Board encourages applications for non-traditional and interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability.

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