Introduction: Roll Up Charging Station

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I travel a lot, going on the road withFIRSTexhibits at conferences, maker fairs and science festivals, and to do workshops and presentations on makerspace development at libraries and other community centers. In addition to my laptop, I'm also usually toting an iPad, cell phone, and my camera, and the tangle of chargers that come with everything. I've stuffed the chargers in laptop bag pockets, tried putting them in ziplocks and in a little zippered pouch, and looked at various charging stations, but they were never quite what I was looking for. So I've ended up charging devices wherever I could find an outlet at a hotel room or meeting, which sometimes meant having devices scattered around a room, and the possibility of forgetting to take a device with me when I left.

For a while, I've been kicking around the idea of a soft sided charging station, something that wouldn't take up a lot of room in a suitcase or my laptop bag. I found a couple of commercial options that ranged in price from $30 to over $100, but besides the prohibitive costs, none of them were customized to my needs.

My Roll Up Charging Station solution isn't big on looks, but I'm delighted with the results. It:

  • Has a small footprint - just 12" long, 5" wide and a couple of inches deep, and suitably squishy
  • Can charge up to five devices
  • Makes it easy to swap out old devices for new ones
  • Cost less than $10

It would have been even cheaper had I used what I already had on hand, but I bought the 6 outlet powerstrip, so I'd have something a little bigger than the four outlet one I've been using.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Materials needed for a Roll Up Charging Station are:

  • Rubberized or plastic shelf liner
  • 4-6 outlet powerstrip (whichever fits best within the width of your shelf liner)
  • Sticky back Velcro
  • Scissors
  • Your chargers

Step 2: Position and Secure Powerstrip

I used three small pieces of Velcro to attach the powerstrip to one end of the shelf liner material.

Step 3: Position Charger Strip

With the powerstrip secured with Velcro to the shelf liner and positioned face up, roll it burrito-style in the liner, one full turn until it's face up again. At that point, run a strip of Velcro the width of the shelf liner material, right in front of the rolled up powerstrip.

Step 4: Attach Chargers

Affix small squares of connecting Velcro to each charger you want to accommodate. In this case, I removed all the cords from the chargers, and wrapped them neatly with little strips of Velcro. Then I just attached everything to the charger strip. I also attached the power strip cord to the top of the power strip with Velcro, so everything's all tucked in.

Step 5: Roll 'Er Up!

Roll the whole thing up, leaving enough material to secure a closing flap with some Velcro fasteners, like a clutch purse (or a murse, guys). Cut off there with a pair of scissors and you're good to go!

Unrolled, my charging station is 18 in. long. Rolled up, it's a foot long (like a sub!), 5" wide and a couple of inches thick, and nicely flexy.

My bulky old Canon battery charger never fits anywhere, so I stuck a little piece of Velcro on that, on a lark, and stuck that on the front of the whole thing. That's a bit superfluous though. The things I really need are all tucked up inside my Roll Up Charger, all nice and tidy.

Step 6: Charge!

To use my charging station, I just unroll the whole thing and plug in the powerstrip, then plug in whatever chargers I need. When I'm done, everything gets Velcroed back in place and the whole thing is rolled back up and tossed into my laptop bag or suitcase. I even "monogrammed" with a business card, attached on the inside where it won't get knocked off or dirty and is easily seen when the charging station is rolled up.

You could get a little fancier and put end flaps either side, so the whole thing is totally enclosed, but it's fully functional as is and I'm looking forward to taking my Roll Up Charging Station on the road with me soon!

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