Gadgets

In this university’s laptop vending machine, the MacBooks are free

Philadelphia’s Drexel University has installed a Macbook vending machine in the university’s Haggerty library. The kiosk dispenses MacBooks free of charge to Drexel students, staff, and faculty, who can use the machines for up to five hours at a time.

The goal is simply to help students get better, safer access to technology. Students toting laptops are targets for muggers.

“We installed it in late December,” Niki Gianakaris, Drexel’s media relations director, said. “Students didn’t want to carry their laptops to the library late at night.”

To get a MacBook, students simply walk up to the vending machine, sign in with their student card, and receive a laptop. Between lending sessions, the Macbook’s batteries charge, and the kiosk wipes the hard drives clean. Late fees of $5 do apply. The vending machine holds 12 notebooks, and I’m guessing it’s generally empty.

For now it’s a demo project with single vending machine, but it could grow over time.

“This is obviously going to be very popular,” Gianakaris said. “We’ll evaluate their use and, depending on the results determine how many more we can install.”

The program is part of Drexel Library’ knowledge transfer mission. “Libraries are not only meant to house books,” Drexel dean Danuta Nitecki said in a statement. “They also house learning.”

Depending on students’ reaction and university finances, Drexel is considering installing kiosks at additional potential locations around campus. Two other universities on the East Coast are also trying the laptop-lending program, Drexel said on its blog, using technology from Texas-based LaptopsAnytime.

If the program is popular, iPads are next up on the list for consideration, Gianakaris added. Right now, that seems like a safe bet.

Image credit: Drexel University. Hat tip: Hacker News