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Toolbox Multi-Charger Solution

Charging Station
Charging Cradle "Farm"
Open Box
Open Toolbox
Open Box with Handhelds
Charging Handhelds

My school recently purchased 30 palmOne Tungsten E handheld computers. All of our previous handhelds each came with syncing/charging cradles. However, only a cable for charging and a cable for synching is packed in the box with a Tungsten E.

I had to rethink how charging is done, since previously I simply set up a “farm” of 14 cradles on my desk (all attached to a few power strips on the floor). I set up enough cradles so that half of the Palm m515s could charge at once. It has worked out nicely. If I set up the new Tungsten E cables in the same way, I would have a pile of black spaghetti all over my desk! Being somewhat of a neat freak, I needed to find a way to charge at least a dozen handhelds at once without the cable clutter. Sure, there’s the TriBeam Charging Station. It’s a great way to not only charge, but to organize a set of 30 handhelds. It comes in a tabletop or cart form, but it’s very costly, starting at $999. There’s also iGo’s 10-Slot Charging Cradle. Maybe I could just purchase two of these? Well, iGo doesn’t make one that is compatible with most newer handhelds, including the Tungsten E. I knew I’d have to come up with my own inexpensive solution.

I had figured out that I wanted some sort of container to place all of the power strips and bricks in. I was planning to then drill holes in the container so that only the ends that plug into the handhelds would be visible. Luckily, as I was walking around Home Depot one Saturday, I noticed a sale on toolboxes—$4 for a nice Black & Decker box. After opening it I knew it was perfect for the multi-charger I wanted to construct!

Here’s what I did: I connected two power strips into an extension cord. I plugged 12 Tungsten E power cables into the power strips and placed them in the bottom of the toolbox. I carefully organized the long cables so they wouldn’t tangle. I pulled the ends of the cables and the end of the extension cord through the handle hole in the upper deck of the toolbox. I taped the cords underneath the upper deck so they wouldn’t slide back into the bottom. I placed the upper deck of the toolbox on top of the power strips and cable bricks. I now had a very inexpensive, portable, clutter-free, multi-charger! I simply plug the handhelds into the ends of the cables and place them on the top tray. I have one extension cord that runs from the box to a wall socket.

The power supply bricks for the handhelds do get hot, so be careful if you make your own. I made sure I didn’t put too many power bricks in the bottom of the box. I also used a heavy-duty, three-pronged extension cord and good power strips. I don’t want to create a fire hazard.

My multi-charger toolbox is also great for classrooms where students each have their own handhelds. Having two of these boxes would allow an entire class set of handhelds to charge at once without having chargers plugged into every spare socket around the classroom.

For less than $35, you can make your own toolbox multi-charger! Click the photos on this page to see larger pictures of my toolbox.

December 21, 2004

Also see a Basket Charging Solution.

Closed Tool Box
Open Box with Handhelds
Charging Handhelds
Inside Box
Inside the Box
This is an archived page of Learning in Hand and is no longer being updated.