By Amanda Hoover, news editor
For those on campus who are frustrated by low phone batteries halfway through the day, WrightGrid, a startup founded by Northeastern alumnus Ryan Wright (CoE ‘09), now provides a solution.
WrightGrid installed five phone- charging stations on campus as part of a pilot program in February. Until the end of April, students and staff can try the stations and provide feedback through Twitter, using #NotioninMotion. The university will consider the feedback when it makes a decision about purchasing the stations.
“You can see – if you walk anywhere on campus right now – people huddled by outlets. You see stray phones plugged in,” Justin Wright, one of the lead fellows on the project, said. “There’s a definite need.”
The project, which comes from the Office of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs (EMSA), is a collaboration with Notion in Motion. Notion in Motion is a division of EMSA that helps put innovative ideas into practice on campus.
“Last year, an idea was submitted to increase the charging capabilities on campus, and just looking at power bars or adding outlets on campus – that’s not very innovative,” Justin Wright said. “So we were looking at something that is new, that is fresh.”
That’s when EMSA connected with Ryan Wright and WrightGrid, seeking an innovative, eco-friendly solution to the problem. So far, the pilot program has been successful, according to Ryan Wright.
“We just did a debrief with the Notion in Motion administrators and all of the feedback was really positive,” he said.
Currently, the stations are located in Curry Student Center, the International Village dining hall, Snell Library and Marino Center. At each location, students can secure their iPhone or Android in a combination sealed locker for free while it charges.
Initially, the pilot program was only contracted for six weeks, but Northeastern has decided to extend it until the end of April following positive feedback, Ryan Wright said.
Ryan Wright began work on WrightGrid as a graduate student at Babson University in Wellesley. While working on a project in which he had to create a new company that used renewable energy, he thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had some kind of opportunity to charge our phones outdoors and use some kind of solar panel?” He took the project and founded Sol Power in March of 2013. Last fall, the name was changed to WrightGrid.
The stations that are currently part of the pilot program are not solar-powered, as they were placed indoors for the cold winter months. If Northeastern chooses to purchase the stations, Wright said eco-friendly and solar-powered stations could be added outdoors.
“This is a great idea,” Chris Willig, a first-year graduate student studying computer science, said. “People are always looking to charge their phones.”
The Northeastern community has already been using the stations in high volume.
“We’ve gotten feedback that has said these stations are being heavily used, students love them and that fewer phones are being stolen,” Ryan Wright said.
Xuewei Zhu, a third-year architecture major, thinks that the charging stations are an innovative addition to campus.
“I think it’s really cool. It’s really advantageous,” Zhu said, using the station to for the first time in the Curry Student Center.
Should Northeastern decide to purchase the stations, they will have the opportunity to select the fourth generation version of the stations. The new version is redesigned to look more sleek and incorporates LED lighting to signify which stations are vacant.
EMSA will continue to collect feedback until the pilot’s end.
Photo by Scotty Schenck