Plug-in to picnic tables

On April 26, Maryville College will be continuing its efforts toward a green campus with the installation of two solar-powered picnic tables.

Associate professor of art Dr. Adrienne Schwarte and Dr. Mark O’Gorman, associate professor of political science and coordinator of MC’s environmental studies program, spearheaded the project, arranging for a portion of the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Grant to be designated for the purchase and installation of the tables.

The tables will replace two of the picnic tables already on the Pearsons lawn.

Schwarte and O’Gorman decided to purchase the tables from the company EnerFusion for a total of $2,200.

With the support of the Environment and Forestry Advisory Committee (EFAC), vice president and dean of the college Barbara Wells and the MC physical plant, Schwarte feels as though project has thus far been a success.

Schwarte received feedback on the design of the tables, which will be in MC colors and feature the college’s logo, from her ART 323 students.

The tables will feature three 45-watt solar panels on the sides and one 100-watt solar panel on the top of each of the tables’ umbrellas. The tables will seat eight students and have outlets to plug in cell phone chargers and laptop chargers, in addition to USB ports for smart phones.

“We are very excited for their delivery,” Schwarte said.

Schwarte explained that these tables will not only be placed in an area where Wi-Fi is available, but the tables will also be more visible during tours of the college, which Schwarte hopes will boost the interest of prospective students.

The tables are made out of recyclable materials, which will also help maintain the college’s green efforts.

Additionally, each table is equipped with a backup battery and monitors to display energy production and consumption.

“We wanted them to be a sort of social pod,” Schwarte said.

As Schwarte explained, the new tables will also make holding classes outdoors more feasible, as access to technology will no longer be an issue.

“There will certainly be many opportunities where this can benefit students in other courses,” Schwarte said.

Schwarte added that spring is her favorite time of the year at MC because she loves seeing students outside working and enjoying the environment.

“I’m a designer, and I work on the computer all the time,” Schwarte said. “I need to [have access to technology], as a designer and an educator, but I love to be outside.”

Schwarte hopes the solar-powered tables will provide a better chance for students and professors alike to spend more time outside.

After the installation, MC will be the first campus in the state of Tennessee to have solar-powered picnic tables.

While the amount of electricity saved by using these tables may initially seem small, the tables will allow students to power their electronics without being confined to buildings and tapping into electrical outlets.

Certainly the idea of plugging into a picnic table is unique to MC, and according to Schwarte, the students she has spoken to about the project are all very excited.

“This provides a great opportunity for everyone to get to be outside more and see each other,” Schwarte said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *