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Colleges Install Cellphone-Charging Stations for Hyperconnected Students

A low cellphone battery is a source of anxiety for many college students these days, sending them searching dining halls or libraries for a place to recharge. To reduce panicked questions about where to find the nearest power outlet, universities are purchasing charging stations like those already common in airports. Some are even installing small lockers with power outlets inside, for students who want to keep devices safe while they power up.

Companies like goCharge and KwikBoost say they have seen an uptick in sales to colleges in the past year. KwikBoost has sold units to about 200 universities since April, said Paul Mecca, the company’s co-founder. GoCharge expanded from conventions and bars to universities this year and has sold units to 12 colleges so far, said David Walke, the company’s chief executive.

Mr. Walke said colleges were primarily interested in buying charging stations that have minilockers for students’ devices. Some colleges, like the Johns Hopkins University and Indiana University at Bloomington, have added larger lockers in their libraries to let students and professors charge laptops.

“Students have this attitude that everything is safe,” said Kathleen Anderson, administrative coordinator for facilities and support services at Johns Hopkins’s Sheridan Libraries. “We wanted to encourage them to secure their belongings.” A student can leave his or her phone in a locker for an hour to charge while in class, walk back, and retrieve it later.

There’s just one problem. Students can’t seem to leave their electronics for that long.

A few campuses installed KwikBoost’s charging lockers, only to realize that students would “shut the door to the locker, but never walk away,” Mr. Mecca said.

“The feedback we got overwhelmingly was that students weren’t going to leave their phones,” he said. “That’s the world we live in now.”

Helene O’Leary, assistant dean for development and external-relations advancement at Indiana University at Bloomington’s libraries, said students had not used library charging lockers much because they wanted to keep their devices with them throughout the day. The library is considering adding chargers to lockers with more space to store books and other belongings.

Students seem to prefer plugging into a mobile charging station at a student center or cafeteria, watching their devices while eating lunch or studying for a while, and then continuing on their way.

Virginia Tech purchased four charging stations and has seen them in constant use, said Justin Camputaro, director of student centers and activities. The university plans to order more.

“It’s gone viral,” Mr. Walke said.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by futureshape]

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