The Dernogalizer

February 2, 2010

Solar backpacks: Yes, they are awesome

Filed under: Dernoga,University of Maryland — Matt Dernoga @ 5:37 pm
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I figured I’d be a jerk and write about my solar powered backpack for this week!  Enjoy a lighter column.

Solar backpacks: Yes, they are awesome

By Matt Dernoga

I’m walking up Campus Drive toward the Stamp Student Union. I hear a voice behind me exclaim, “Hey, excuse me, can I ask you a question?” Knowing full well what it is, I say sure.

“Are those solar panels on your backpack?”

Why yes, they are.

“Wow, what do they power?”

Small electronics like my cell phone and my iPod.

“That is so cool!”

Yes, it’s pretty awesome.

Ever since I won a solar powered backpack on Earth Day in 2008, this has happened to me a few times a day, everywhere I go.

My backpack comes with a ton of adapters for all sorts of different electronic devices to hook up to the panels, as well as a lithium ion battery to store the energy for later use. You can find it on for $250.

There have definitely been some memorable moments:

One time a friend of mine was taken to the emergency room, and when I went to the hospital, the doctors stopped while treating him to ask me about the backpack. Good thing he survived.
Another time I was at a youth environmental summit with 12,000 activists and was getting stopped every 30 seconds to the contempt of my friends.

When I table at the First Look Fair for the environmental group I’m in, I just sit the backpack on the table and draw the unsuspecting freshmen in. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel with a bazooka.
The best was the prank I pulled on a friend who gripes all the time that I won the backpack instead of him (he was right behind me in line for the raffle).

The following year, I had the organizers of the raffle for the 2009 Earth Day send him a fake e-mail announcing I had won another backpack for the second year in a row, the odds of which were a large, made-up number. When asked if I would share, I was quoted as saying “God gave me two shoulders for a reason.” He flipped.

There is actually an argument to be made here. If ordinary college students are so intrigued by this technology on a backpack, imagine what would happen if a few kids in each school around the country won these backpacks through essay contests.

Our education system is trying to tackle a major challenge: getting kids interested in fields such as math, science and engineering. Our main shortcoming has been a failure to make it cool and make it resonate. If we show kids at a young age how renewable energy technologies can apply to charging their iPods and their cell phones, they’ll be hooked.

Alas, this backpack came too late for me. My high school scared me away from math and science ate my lunch (I didn’t know frogs like peanut butter). But until our schools decide to use my idea to save the children, I’m the only game in town. The guy who won last year doesn’t count.

So yes, if you see a guy walking in front of you and you think you see solar panels, they are. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.  Try it.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com


1 Comment »

  1. You go buddy! We definitely need a science and math educational renaissance (spelling?). The paucity of intellectual challenge in Jr. High and High school is horrendous. Why don’t you start the trend by offering up your backpack as an essay-contest prize????????

    Comment by dichotoman — February 4, 2010 @ 12:54 pm | Reply

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