Maker Tools: Building a Classroom Cell Phone Charging Station

(Image credit: Kyle Crawford)

Who: Kyle Crawford, Technology Education Teacher 

Where: Coxsackie-Athens Central School District, NY

What: Using maker tools to design and build a classroom cell charging station

Most of our high school teachers have implemented a “cell phone parking lot” that allows students to store their cell phone in a single location in the classroom. One of the Coxsackie-Athens’ English teachers suggested the charging station concept as an extra incentive for students to store their phones. This project offered a great design challenge for the Design Process unit I typically do with my Drawing and Design for Production (DDP) students. I provided a design brief outlining the problem at hand and the constraints that they would need to follow. The class split into five small groups to brainstorm as many solutions to the problem as they could. 

The walls of my classroom are whiteboard from floor to ceiling. Each group was assigned an area and created dozens of thumbnail sketches of their ideas. Students then chose the optimal design within their groups and created several scale models of their design solution. The class as a whole voted on the final solution, and I helped them create a CAD model from which to build the first prototype. Students then headed into our wood lab to utilize woodworking tools to build the prototype cell phone charging station.

Positive Results

This project only scratches the surface of the maker tools that our students have available to them, so doing something of such high natural interest offered a gateway to further involvement for not only the 68 students in the class, but others. Students enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing pathway have access to two 3D printers, a laser cutter, electronics test equipment, four Haas CNC machines, four manual machine tools, three welders, a foundry, a CAD/CAM computer lab, and a fully equipped wood lab. This variety of maker tools has significantly increased the rigor of our courses, and has ultimately raised the bar of student achievement. 

Challenges and Solutions

The major challenge with this project was allowing each student to have a role during the prototype build, in a way that they all learned the skills involved. The solution to this issue would be to allow several groups to build different iterations of the prototype. 

Finding Funding

This project was funded by the Coxsackie-Athens High School Technology Education Department budget. 

Pro Tip

I would suggest allowing the student groups to develop more than one prototype to allow for more hands-on skill development if the time can be dedicated to it. I would also suggest allowing this to become a CAD drawing project if the time is available.

Tools Used

Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD Software

Lenovo P310 Thinkstation

Haas CNC machines

CAD/CAM computer lab

3D Printer - Tiertime Upbox

Laser Engraver - Full Spectrum H-Series 20x12

Electronics Equipment - Mastech M9803R Multimeter, Mastech HY1802D Power Supply Manual Lathe - Acer 1440G Engine Lathe

Manual Mill - Acer E-Mill

Horizontal Bandsaw - Cosen MH-1016

TIG Welder - Eastwood TIG 200 (220V)

MIG Welder - Lincoln Handymig (110V)

Arc Welder - Lincoln AC/DC Arc Welder (220V)

Foundry - Johnson Gas Model 900 Crucible Furnace

Miter Saw - DeWalt 10" sliding compound miter saw

Table Saw - Sawstop Cabinet Saw

Bandsaw - Jet 16" Bandsaw

Bandsaw - Jet 14" Bandsaw

Belt Sander - Jet J-4300 Belt sander

Planer - DeWalt 12.5" Planer

Cordless Drill - DeWalt 20V Brushless Drill Driver/ImpactFor

Charging Station:Cardboard/Hot Glue for model building, 1X - 24” x 48” x ½” Plywood, 1X - 12” x 24” x 18 Gauge Sheet Metal, Scrap wood of uniform dimension for phone kickstands, #8 x 1” Wood screws

Sascha Zuger

Sascha has nearly two decades of experience as a freelance journalist writing for national magazines, including The Washington Post, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and others. She writes about education, travel and culinary topics.