Students from Catlin Gabel, one of the city's elite private schools, are now directly helping the homeless, with a new invention from a student group.

Students who are part of the school's "InvenTeam" created the JuiceBox, a solar-powered battery, which is now providing power to four sleeping pod units in the Hazelnut Grove community, the shared living encampment of tiny houses and sleeping pods across from the rail yard in North Portland.

The school's InvenTeam focuses on engineering and robotics. They submitted the JuiceBox to the national Lexus Eco Challenge, an initiative challenging students to address an issue in their community—and won.

"We like to use our engineering resources to really change our community," says sophomore Layton Rosenfeld, a member of the team.

The Catlin Gabel High School Catlin InvenTeam.
The Catlin Gabel High School Catlin InvenTeam.

For each unit, the solar panels are installed onto the top or side of pod houses where they charge an 18-AH 12 volt battery. The battery can then power internal LED lights or power outlets. The inventors are re-purposing used batteries from robotics teams from Catlin as well as other schools. The JuiceBox isn't exactly cheap though; the team estimates each unit costs approximately $350 in parts alone.

"I believe the most expensive feature is the solar panel and we're working with local solar companies to work with us on that," says Rosenfeld.

Earning top honors in the Air and Climate category, the Catlin InvenTeam won a 10,000 dollar prize, all of which they have opted to re-invest into their project.

Catlin Gable Public Relations Director Ken DuBois says there are 20 more units ready to install and the team's earnings will help them produce an additional 30 units.