By Amanda Schallert
Originally posted in the Daily Bruin
A green energy project that originated in a UCLA classroom has come to light on Ackerman patio.
Two new tables equipped with solar-powered charging stations, LED lights, four outlets and USB sockets now sit on the patio outside the Ackerman first level back doors.
The idea for the tables — which UCLA installed last week — began with a team of students involved with UCLA’s Education for Sustainable Living Program, said Roy Champawat, director of the UCLA Student Union.
Kyle Graycar, a fourth-year environmental sciences student, and Wendy Greene, a fourth-year ecology and evolutionary biology student, led the team of students who researched and developed the idea for the tables. The students first came up with the idea about a year and a half ago, while they were taking a class together, Graycar said.
The UCLA Green Initiative Fund covered the nearly $24,200 cost of the tables and their installation, after Graycar and Greene brought the proposal to the Fund’s grant-making committee, aid Nurit Katz, chief sustainability officer at UCLA Sustainability.
The Green Initiative Fund is supported by a $4 per quarter student fee, which began in fall 2008 after a referendum to increase fees passed in the 2008 USAC elections, Katz said.
The fund supplies students with the financial means to pursue sustainability projects on campus, and the grant-making committee consists of UCLA students and staff, Champawat said.
The students researched possible product options that UCLA could install, and ultimately decided to purchase tables from EnerFusion Inc., a company that constructs green charging stations.
The tables were constructed from recycled materials, and an umbrella holding three solar panels tops each table.
The tables were installed at Ackerman because it is a heavily used student space and the patio had room for them, Katz said.
Greene said the team did not initially plan for its project to lead to material change on UCLA’s campus.
But in March 2012, the team was encouraged to apply for funding after receiving second place in a competition hosted by UCLA BGreen Consulting – an independent student organization that also serves as the sustainability program of the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s facilities commission.
Greene and Graycar both said they think one of the most important aspects of the tables is their use as educational tools. Greene said the tables are aimed at making sustainable technology accessible to students.
“The benefit of these charging stations isn’t only utilitarian,” Graycar said. “(The tables) also (have) an educational aspect where students are able to directly engage in renewable energy and very easily digest that what they are plugging into is something green.”
Champawat said the Student Union plans to continue pursuing green projects designed by students and providing them funding. Last fall, UCLA installed 132 solar panels on the roof of Ackerman with funding from The Green Initiative Fund.
“We want students with ideas they want to bring to campus to know we are willing to help them and be their partners,” Champawat said.
Contributing reports by Yancey Cashell, Bruin contributor.