The dangers of DIY laptop trolleys

Vicki Cole

Vicki Cole is an Innovate My School expert and writes regular articles on laptop security and charging solutions for charging mobile ICT en masse.

Vicki works at mobile ICT security, charging and storage expert LapSafe® Products, the company behind the UK’s first ever laptop trolley. LapSafe® Products has been a trusted brand within the education sector for more than a decade, providing superior solutions to track, manage, store and charge laptops, netbooks and tablets since 2000. LapSafe® Products pioneered the industry it now leads and manufactures the most comprehensive range of charging products on the market. Recent products include: the UnoCart™ sync and charge for iPads, the ClassBuddy™ quality low-cost laptop trolley and the RFID Diplomat™ laptop locker.

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In the face of restricted budgets, teachers are fast becoming experts in seeking out free educational resources, often creating their own in an attempt to save case. Compiling DIY textbooks from online materials is a great way to personalise study resources whilst cutting costs, and there are plenty of websites where teachers can access worksheets and educational videos for free.

Although ‘homemade’ educational aids can bring considerable benefits to teachers and their pupils, there are some learning resources that should be left to the experts. Laptop trolleys are essential tools for many classrooms, but schools can risk the safety of both their pupils and their IT equipment by creating their own DIY versions.

With the Harnessing Technology Grant now consigned to history and the Government’s ICT funding plans still unclear, I can appreciate the need for schools to seek cheaper ways of delivering technology. Ensuring value for money from ICT purchases has always been essential, but creating DIY laptop trolleys can actually be most costly than cost-effective if laptops need to be replaced as a result of electrical mishaps.

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When charging multiple laptops or netbooks, the way in which power is sent to the devices is paramount; if too much power is used at once, a homemade laptop trolley could trip a fuse, potentially damaging the laptops, or other electrical equipment in the building.

To make matters worse, serious injuries to both pupils and staff can occur if the electrics in a DIY laptop trolley are not wired correctly. As with any consumer electrical device, manufacturers of laptop trolleys have to adhere to extensive health and safety requirements to ensure the safety of those that use them. Trolleys and carts made by expert suppliers use surge protection, load protection and low voltage charging, and these essential safety features are difficult to replicate without extensive experience in electrics and power management.

Laptop trolleys with CE Certification have passed vigorous safety testing and are a far better option to ensure pupil safety.

However, it’s not just wiring that is important when it comes to laptop trolleys. Many DIY versions that I have seen have been created from wood, and, apart from being rather ineffective at deterring or preventing theft of the devices they were designed to protect, this material can also pose a risk to safety. Laptops can create significant heat when they are charging, and, simply put, heat and wood do not mix.

Metal laptop trolleys manufactured by trained professionals do not only protect against laptop theft, but their purpose-built ventilation systems prevent laptops from over-heating. Some laptop trolleys are even equipped with fans for extra safety, features that are essential if you want to add additional features to your trolley, such as the ability to transfer data to devices whilst in they are storage.

Transporting laptops in homemade trolleys can also be problematic. On its own, a laptop and its AC adaptor might not weigh much, but several laptops and adaptors inside a wooden cabinet will increase the weight of the unit dramatically. If a DIY laptop trolley is not fitted with the right castor wheels, the unit can become difficult to manoeuvre and even unstable. Laptop trolleys manufactured to the required British safety standards will have correctly taken into account weight distribution and will feature brakes to ensure that the unit does not move or topple over when in use.

DIY and crowd-sourced learning resources can be a great way to help schools cut costs, but resorting to homemade laptop trolleys can actually result in additional costs and problems for schools on a budget. DIY laptop trolleys risk instability, damaging the equipment they were designed to protect and even the welfare of the teachers and staff using them. For safety reasons, I would strongly advise against them.

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For a range of the latest laptop trolleys available, check out the Laptop Storage & Charging directory.

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