Life's a Picnic When You Charge Your Cellphone at MHCC

Posted May 31, 2013 

Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) students will soon be able to charge their electronic devices outdoors, while enjoying a latte, chatting with friends and studying for classes. The charging stations are the first solar picnic tables of their kind west of the Mississippi River, and the first at a U.S. community college, according to the manufacturer.

The Associated Student Government (ASG) of Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) is partnering with EnerFusion, Inc., to purchase and install the three picnic tables that will double as solar-powered charging stations for laptops, cellphones, tablets, cameras and other electronic devices. Installation is expected to begin June 4, and should be completed the following day, in time for an all-student end-of-the-year forum and celebration.

Designated as ASG's "legacy gift" to the MHCC community, student government allocated funds from student fees collected during spring term to purchase the 100 percent "green" tables. Each table, called a "Solar Dok," generates renewable power that is totally off the U.S. electricity grid – and at no cost to the user or the college. Each table comes with four standard power outlets and two USB ports.

Sufficient Sunshine Despite Oregon Clouds

The solar panels are expected to collect enough energy to power the outlets--even during cloudy Oregon winters (or summers!)—as well as LED lights that illuminate the tables throughout the night. The tables are constructed from 1,200 recycled milk cartons

"ASG saw the need for a more sustainable way of living," says William Miller, ASG president. "We are excited about the purchase and implementation of the Solar Doks and believe they will help everyone on campus to experience solar energy and hopefully discover other ways they can help sustain earth's resources."


How They Work

Solar panels located on top of the table umbrella collect energy from the sun, which is then stored in a battery secured inside the table base. A meter displays how much energy is stored in the battery, and how much energy is being used.

The Solar Doks will be installed in three locations to maximize student access, convenience, visibility and southern exposure for solar gain. Current locations include the north entrance of the Gresham Campus near Rooms AC1700, outside the Student Union and in the main mall near the Bookstore.

In addition to supporting MHCC's commitment to sustainability and conservation, ASG is proud of this campus enhancement for many other reasons, including:

  • Helping to educate students and guests on renewable, solar energy
  • Providing additional seating and social places for students and the MHCC community to gather
  • Creating applied learning opportunities for MHCC classroom instruction related to engineering, sustainability, mathematics, industrial design, astronomy, natural resources management and others
  • Decreasing student dependency on electricity from the standard outlets located throughout campus
  • Enhancing campus safety with all-night LED illumination
  • Demonstrating quality use of recycled materials for a high-tech, cutting edge and practical purpose that meets a ubiquitous need for MHCC students
  • Improving the campus with zero cost to the college budget and zero burden on MHCC utilities
  • Increasing sense of campus pride and recognition with tables sporting school colors and logo
  • Enhancing MHCC's role in the community as a front-runner in sustainable energy use and meeting the needs of the 21st century student in ways that go far beyond the classroom experience

Previous Legacy Gifts Also Focused on Environmental Sustainability

The Solar Dok project follows ASG's previous two legacy gifts which also addressed sustainability issues. Last year, ASG donated seven (and then added five more) water filling stations. Each station replaces traditional drinking fountains and gives students the ability to refill their own water bottles with filtered water. A metering system tracks the equivalent number of plastic bottles that were prevented from going to landfills (approximately 20,000 per station). The previous year, ASG donated a number of brightly-colored recycling bins that serve as effective collection points for glass, plastic, paper and garbage. They also serve as good conversation starters with respect to the ease and importance of recycling.

David Sussman, manager of Student Union and Specialized Student Services, says, "I couldn't be more pleased about ASG's decision to gift our campus these solar picnic tables. Beyond providing new places for students to gather and charge their electronic gadgets, I'm particularly excited about the tables sparking conversations around renewable energy and ways new technology can help us and the planet simultaneously."

He adds that the solar tables "will reaffirm MHCC's role in the community as leaders in harnessing green energy, using cutting-edge technology and a place where students very much care about the environment and each other."

For more information, please contact the Office of College Advancement, 503-491-7204 or 

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 Last Modified: 6/3/2013 03:30:51 PM