This school year, my school had two laptop carts. One in the elementary school and one in the middle/high school. The computers are house in a big, grey metal cart. When it arrived, the cart had no power capabilities, so basically we just purchased the structure and we had to set up the chargers and cables. From what I was informed, the carts are hard to source in Japan, so it had to be shipped to Tokyo from the US. I was also told that the cart cost roughly ¥3000. Or when put in perspective, three laptops. Now that’s an expensive grey box!

 

The current laptop cart, minus some laptops.

 

I for one think this is ridiculous! It cost three computers in the hands of students, just to roll the computers around. So myself and my department have been thinking of better ways to house and transport the computers. We tried static shelves. It worked but the computer had to be transported by the children, one by one before and after each lessons. This would have worked if the computers were being used by just one class, but they were a shared resource which made it tough. We sat the shelf in the hallway and students would pick them up, carry then to class, and return them when they were finished. We thought about the idea of putting the computers in tubs and carrying the tubs. The problem with this is that it was just way too heavy. Four computers in a tub weighed much more than was safe to carry. Not to mention how cumbersome it was and how easy it was to spill them.

After a few failed attempts, we put the ideas to rest and decided that the only way to transport our computers was to use an expensive cart. Until one of our team noticed what another school in the areas was doing. They were using pre fabricated shelving, putting wheels on it then storing and transporting their laptops on shelves. I had not seen the actual cart, just heard about it, but I was a little skeptical. It sounded very messy and a cheap way around the problem. But my boss was adamant that it would work and purchased all of the equipment needed. I set it all up with the help of the computer technician, on one of the last days of school so that it could be ready for teachers and students on the first day of next year.

When reading the box, I noticed that it said the shelves could hold up to 120KG. When looking at the flimsy shelves, I was VERY skeptical of this claim. I didn’t think it could hold the technician, let alone both of us on it together! So we tested it. I had the technician stand on it. I expect it to bend and come close to breaking, but it passed the 40KG weight test with ease. I then tried it. Once again, I didn’t think it could hold up, but it passed the 80KG test with flying colours. This is when I knew that this cart was going to be strong!

We started putting it together and at every level of the shelving, I stood on it to make sure that all the joint were in place. No tools required, just a Lego mindset and some imagination and you could make anything out of this stuff.

 

The new laptop cart, sold as a rock!

 

We set aside the bottom shelf for the chargers. The next shelf housed six computers, two stacked on top of each other. We had another two shelves the same then a top cover. It would have been quite easy to add another three shelves so that each row of three laptops had their own shelf, but we didn’t feel this was necessary. We put sides all the way around the cart so the computers would not fall out, on all sides except the front so students could slide the computers in and out.

The wiring took a long time to do. All up it took 2.5 hours and the construction of the cart took about 30 minutes, so about two hours to make sure the wiring was right. But we wanted to do it once, do it properly and not have to worry about it again. It was fiddly, but we made sure it was all cable tied into place and run along sections that computer would bump out of place.

 

Everything is cable tied into place.
Plug this single adapter into a power source and all of the laptops charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final product, I think, is actually better than the more expensive version. It’s lighter, more maneuverable, more customizable and much smaller. When compared side by side, it’s about half the height! This is a plus for students, as I know how awkward they consider the grey box to roll around. Some teachers even have troubles. So being smaller and lighter, it should be well received by students and teachers. The cables are easily set in place, unlike in the grey box. However, there are a few negative aspects of the new cart. If you are concerned about security, then the new cart can not be locked. But for our applications, we never locked the old cart anyway. One other concern we anticipated was that the shelves would be too low and skinny for teachers to get the computers in and out of. But my reasoning is, the computers are for student use, so the shelf is the perfect size for children’s hands. They can easily get computers out and put them away. The computers are for student use at the end of the day, so why not design the cart with the same principals in mind.

So despite the few negatives, I think the fact that it only cost $300 all up, a 10th of the price of the grey box and a saving of two and two thirds of a laptop, the new, small, customized, prefabricated cart is by far the better choice. What do you think? Have you seen other alternatives?

 

A side by side comparison. The new, prefabricated cart on the left and the expensive grey box on the right. I think it's clear which the winner is.