The Moment is Meow for Sustainable Design!
We’re Grouphug, a NYC-based tech company that aims to empower more people to adopt sustainable technology. Today we opened “Solar Cat: The Cutest Solar Panel Ever Made,” a giant cat-shaped solar panel at the historic New York Hall of Science in Queens. The exhibit is designed to educate visitors from around the world about the creative possibilities of renewable energy.
“At Grouphug, our mission is to change the perception that renewable energy as a boring utility”
“At Grouphug, our mission is to change the perception that renewable energy is a boring utility purchased by the most privileged. The technology itself can be designed to be more relatable, have a personality, and be fun,” explained Grouphug Founder Krystal Persaud. The industrial designer interviewed over one hundred New Yorkers last summer when doing research for the project, and found a lot of misconceptions about solar energy that discourage people from taking steps to go off the grid.
“People think solar panels are ugly and utilitarian, or that you have to own a house with a roof to go solar, which leaves out millions of apartment dwellers in NYC. We realized, the fundamental design of commercial solar panels hasn’t changed in 60 years, despite the price of solar cells dropping a whopping 99% over the last four decades. We asked ourselves: why aren’t more industrial designers integrating solar technology into their products? How can we make solar cells appeal to every New Yorker?”
The development of Solar Cat started when Persaud was selected to be a Designer-in-Residence at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI). The Designer-in-Residence program invites artists and designers to embed themselves in the museum and create new interactive experiences for visitors. Persaud teamed up with NYSCI “Explainers” Kristian Roopnarine, Estefany Gomez, & Sophia Madonia—local high school and college students who work at the museum and regularly interact with visitors. Electrical engineer Kristin Salomon also joined the team to bring Solar Cat to life.
Inspired by the panda-shaped solar arrays in China, Persaud wanted to create something whimsical that instantly made visitors smile. The exhibit centers around a 140-watt cat-shaped solar panel that is mounted to a window. The energy harvested by Solar Cat powers an adjacent interactive pedestal that features fun facts and diagrams about how solar panels work.
Visitors can physically flip a switch to send Solar Cat's harvested energy to power up a model house. (You will most definitely hear meowing if you power up the exhibit.)
Visitors can also charge their phones using one of two built-in USB ports that are powered by Solar Cat.
The solar cells are mounted on transparent, durable plastic so visitors can see the components up close.
Prior to founding Grouphug, Persaud was the Senior Director of Product Design at educational electronic toy company littleBits. She left the company in 2018 to take her experience in toy design and apply it to make engaging renewable energy products. Persaud is currently a Creator-in-Residence at Kickstarter, where she is developing a crowdfunding campaign to bring the Grouphug Window Solar Chargers to more people.
“We have so many exciting projects under development, all around the idea of people-focused sustainable design.”
“We have so many exciting projects under development, all around the idea of people-focused sustainable design.” Persaud added, “I believe that if you make something fun and accessible, even a utility, the adoption rate will boom. We’re just starting with the cat people.”
Solar Cat opens on Earth Day, April 22, at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York.
On April 24th at 6:15PM, Persaud will give a talk about the making of Solar Cat during the extended museum hours from 5-7PM.
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