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Between smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices, today’s college student owns an average of seven tech devices. And students are constantly on the go, which means they need to have their technology powered and ready to take along with them at all times.
Two years ago, Penn State University Libraries recognized a need and identified a solution to address it. The decades-old infrastructure of Pattee Library and Paterno Library wasn’t always adequate for the needs of tech-savvy students. Even in older areas that have since been renovated, there still don’t seem to be enough electrical outlets to power devices for students who need to work.
Enter Omnicharge, a portable all-in-one device that can power most of the technology that students carry around every day. Chris Holobar, manager of lending and reserve services at the Libraries, discovered the new service and acquired three charging stations — each holding 10 power banks — for a pilot experiment in summer 2017.
Omnicharge operates via a mobile app, which users download and use to create an account with the company. They must enter a credit card number to access a power bank, but its use remains free as long as the user returns and docks the device into any Omnicharge charging station before the end of the 24-hour lending period.
Besides being equipped with all the essential charge options — 120V AC/150 HDVC, two fast-charging USB ports and adjustable voltage DC output — Omnicharge has the added advantage of being portable. Holobar noted that the Kwikboost charging stations, first installed in 2014, require the use of a wall socket, meaning that users must remain close to their devices while they charge.
“Students can take the Omnicharge anywhere on campus with them, and return them anywhere there is an Omnicharge station,” he said.
Since the 2017 pilot, a total of three charging stations have been installed at Pattee Library and Paterno Library: two near the Curtin Road entrance, and one at the back of MacKinnons Lounge, adjacent to Starbucks on the first floor of Paterno Library. In addition, one station is located at each of the branch libraries (Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering, and Physical and Mathematical Sciences).
Students have been enthusiastic about the availability of the new option.
“It charges my iPad Pro faster than an actual outlet,” said one. Added another: “They’re super convenient and located in a great spot.”
Future plans include the installation of 10 to 15 more stations in buildings across campus, to be funded by the University Park Undergraduate Association and other sources. The University Libraries will continue to manage the service and act as campuswide primary account holder.
“It’s a powerful, cost-saving partnership to support student productivity,” said Holobar.