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Oct 09, 2013 08:04 AM EDT

New York Students Design Gadget That Uses Car Batteries to Charge Cell Phones

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Four design students at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program have  created a device that uses power in car batteries to charge phones and other appliances.

The Brooklyn-based team's product, PowerClip, recently won New York's Next Top Makers, the debut competition from the New York City Economic Development Corp that encourages innovative manufacturing in the city. Apart from the prestigious award, the winners, Robin Reid, Phil Groman, Surya Mattu, and Federico Zannier, also received $11,000 as prize money. 

"New York has certain advantages that will make innovative manufacturing a growth area: a large workforce, highly skilled labor and expertise," NYCEDC executive vice president Eric Gertler, told the Daily News.

PowerClip provides an efficient and economical power source to charge appliances through USB from a car battery.

"It was difficult, exciting," said Robin Reid, a member of the PowerClip team in an official statement.  "We learned a lot about our product and ourselves. We have matured so much and are grateful for having had the experience."

The team gained its inspiration to create such a device after experiencing power shortages in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As a result, they decided to create a device to give first responders immediate access to power in emergency situations.

What distinguishes PowerClip from the other similar devices in the market is its portability. The PowerClip can be attached to the car's battery and several other devices like phone chargers can be plugged to the USB slots built on the PowerClip.

"We are easy to use, efficient and designed to prevent the possibility of shorting your battery and creating an explosion," Reid told Daily News.

Their gadget has also caught the attention of UNICEF.

Although the product is still in the early stages of development, Reid said that UNICEF liked it and has promised to fund to improve the product that can be sold directly to consumers.

"We will be making it more consumer friendly," Reid said. "Our dream is to be manufacturing it."

After receiving the prize, Reid said in the official statement,

"We have all been interaction design students from NYU's innovative technology program:  Interactive Telecommunication Program (ITP) and we have been fortunate to have benefited from the legacy of its founder:  the illustrious and highly influential Red Burns. Her emphasis on using technology to empower people, not for flashy show, is ingrained in how we think, how we imagine the world and how we design.  As long as we can see, cut, solder, code, write and speak -- we will be doing what is asked of us: "look for ways to improve people's lives, make them feel more connected, bring delight in big and small ways, and empower them to affect change." Anyone who does this is a 'maker', this is not a special label reserved for us. We are most happy when we see that our hard work has had some substantive meaning for others."

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