Princeton Students win National Competition with ‘Power in a Box’ Invention

Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

An interdisciplinary team of Princeton University students have been awarded top honors, along with 14 other collegiate teams, for their ‘Power in a Box’ invention that converted a standard shipping container into a sustainable source of energy for remote or disaster-torn regions. The 18-month national competition, known as the “P3: People, Prosperity and the Plant Student Design Competition for Sustainability”, began in the fall of 2010 with 165 competitor and culminated April 21 and 22 on the Washington, D.C. Mall. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency has awarded the students with a $90,000 grant to further develop and implement their project.

Continue reading for more information on ‘Power in a Box’.

Inspiration for the project came just after the devastating Haiti earthquake in January 2010, which left many people in need of electrical power and water. Since, approximately 20 students have collaborated to design and complete the project in the “Engineering Projects in Community Service” (EPICS) course instituted by the University’s Keller Center. This course combines a variety of students, from different class years and majors, to focus on helping local and global communities.

The students submission was hauled from to Washington DC on a flatbed truck. It is designed to replace diesel-powered generators in areas cut off from other power sources with a modified shipping container equipped with solar panels and a 40-foot-tall wind turbine.

Photo by Catherine Peters

Once in Washington, the judges were able to witness the project successful produce energy with both systems. On the first day of the event, the weather was “sunny and still”, allowing the ‘Power in a Box’ generate its energy via solar panels. The following day turned “windy and rainy”, giving the students the opportunity to raise their tower and successful activate the wind turbine.

With the EPA’s generous grant, the students will now focus on creating a more powerful version of the equipment, capable of generating one to two kilowatts of power, and prepare for a tour in Africa.

For more information on the project, check out Princeton University’s original article “With ‘Power in a Box’, Princeton students win national competition” by Steven Schultz.

Photos courtesy of Princeton University.

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Princeton Students win National Competition with ‘Power in a Box’ Invention" 02 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>
  • Benjamin Bailey

    18 months & 165 competitors and the winner was a hinged wind turbine with solar panels……

    • Tom Peeters

      indeed, this is simply lame. What is innovative or groundbraking about this??

    • Tom Peeters

      furthermore, this wont have any chance, because the energy produced by the panels and turbine will be very small

  • Peter Sill

    There is so much wrong with this its laughable.

    1, The team will now go on with further grant money to create an improved version that creates 1 to 2KW ?

    In a 40 ft shipping container ?

    Do you realize how many 1 – 2KW diesel generators fit in a 40 ft container ?

    And by inference how many of these 40 foot beasts would need to be built and moved around the world to make a real impact ?

    2, The use of diesel as a fuel source in “emergency power deployment scenarios” is so far down the list of environment priorities that should be a non discussion and its a waste of all resources being directed at this.

    It is somewhat akin to making an argument against emergency diesel backup generators in hospitals that kick in with the main grid goes down.

    3, Once you tear the roof off the container like that its no longer certified as an ISO container and so all the benefits of it being “containerized” namely rapid global transport and deployment using ISO infrastructure are lost.

    Using a container to move stuff around makes sense – heavy modification whist remaining with certification does not – they could just have easily taken the tower out of the main doors but that would not have been anything then – right ?

    This was done to look “cool” without any practical real world thought.

    See if your local shipping company will send that container to Africa without certification. I guarantee that if it goes it will go in a regular unmodified container.

    That’s the best that “Princeton” could come up with ? Jesus bunch of rich morons.

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