Partnership with GLCCC: While currently focused on Madison, this project’s roots began with an initiative originating in Racine. The Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (GLCCC) is an organization based in Wisconsin which works with veterans experiencing homelessness and disadvantaged youth by providing them job skills training. GLCCC recognized that often their trainees did not have a permanent residence and hence a safe place to charge their personal electronics. They identified a two-fold need: (1) community solar-powered charging kiosks for their trainees to charge their electronics for free; and (2) training the trainees to fabricate the kiosks to improve their job market potential and to serve as green ambassadors. GLCCC received a grant from the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation in 2021 to build these kiosks and they partnered with UW-Madison to get technical assistance on the prototypes.
Solympics: To kick off this project, a makeathon (“Solympics”) was organized in Summer 2021 during which UW students made kiosk prototypes. A unique feature of this makeathon was that the GLCCC veterans participated as advisors to provide immediate feedback to the students, helping them devise contextually relevant designs. The winning team designed a Little Free Library (LFL) retrofitted with a small solar charging system called the electric LFL or eLFL. The design was developed into a field-ready prototype and was installed at the GLCCC facility in Racine, WI in March 2022.
Deployment in Madison: Graduate students in the Energy Analysis and Policy program at UW studied the need, feasibility, costs, and benefits of such an eLFL for communities in Madison. They deployed a prototype at Lisa Link Peace Park, located on State Street in Madison for a month in the spring of 2022, collected data, and sought to provide a road map for future implementation of electric/solar-powered charging stations. Through meetings with local non-profits, elected officials, community experts, and end-users, they determined that there is a need for electricity and access to electricity for under-served individuals and communities. The prototype deployment led to daily uses of the eLFL (both for charging and books), meaning it is feasible to deploy energy kiosks in areas of high need. The group concluded that the benefits of the eLFL (electricity access, resource sharing, information sharing) far outweigh the costs of the eLFL deployment and the project (time to seek permission, cost of the materials). More details can be found in their capstone project report.
Legislative impact: The Capstone team had reached out to City of Madison Council Members to understand the permissions and requirements for a large scale deployment of eLFL’s. In order to permit the use of eLFL’s and other public kiosks, Alder Patrick Heck sponsored an ordinance to amend several sections of Chapter 28 of the Madison General Ordinances to create “Mission Boxes” as a permitted use in various districts. A Mission Box is defined as “a structure constructed or authorized by the owner of a parcel for the purpose of providing free items to the public, including, but not limited to, books, food, clothing and home goods.” Electric Little Free Libraries can be viewed as mission boxes for clean energy and literacy. The ordinance passed in Fall 2022. More details can be found on the City of Madison webpage here. The eLFL project also featured as one of the success stories in the State of Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan progress report from May 2023 prepared by the Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.
- 50W solar PV panel
- 12V, 20Ah Li-ion battery
- 4 USB-A outlets
- multi-port charging cables to support phones of different makes
- battery voltage, current
- load current
- real-time clock
- door state (LFL door open/closed)
- Indicators: LEDs to indicate deep-discharge of battery
- SD card to log sensor data
The electronics for the prototype cost $300. For more details refer to this report.
The eLFL team is working on a smaller modular design. Watch this space for updates!
(Listed in no particular order)
Faculty and Staff
- Giri Venkataramanan, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UW-Madison
- Lennon Rodgers, Director UW Makerspace
Solympics Makeathon Winners
- Gold Medal – Team Beacon – Sadeq Hashemi, Seneida Biendarra, Claire Winter, Gaby Setyawan
- Silver Medal – Team Apollo – Finn Roberts, Matthew Mullin, Haocheng Yang, Param Bhandare, Antony Rainchik
- Bronze Medal – Team Osu – Graham Gasper, Lorenzo Abud, Allie Bacholl, Cian Dally, Meera Bradley, Sam Leong
- Maitreyee Marathe, PhD Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Rebecca Alcock, PhD Student, Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Christian Martinez, Master’s Student, Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Brittany Bondi, Master’s Student, Environment and Resources
- Stephanie Bradshaw, PhD Student, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
- William Keenan, Master’s Student, Public Affairs
Undergraduate Students and Student Organizations
- Gabriela Setyawan
- Savannah Ahnen
- Tricia Nazareth
- Varun Balan
- Mridhul Nair Baskaran
- Joshika Nachiappan
- Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) student group
- Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps
- Little Free Library
- Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation