Schatz Energy Research Center

Stack-Outside-the-Box™ Arrives at Southwestern Community College

Southwestern Community College
Instructor Ron Poor with Southwestern Community College’s new Stack-Outside-the-Box™. Photo credit Southwestern Community College.

On March 10th of this year, the second Stack-Outside-the-Box™ (SOtB™) that SERC has produced was delivered to Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. Receiving the unit was Ron Poor, head of the Electronics Engineering Technology program. Last year, seeking to include the concepts of hydrogen based renewable energy in the curriculum, Ron secured a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the purchase of this bench-top fuel cell power system. “We’ve never seen Ron so excited,” the electronics and computer technology students said when the SOtB™ arrived; they were quoted in the hometown Sylva Herald newspaper.

Designed to provide hands-on experience in educational and laboratory settings, the SOtB™ utilizes SERC’s patented low air pressure, PEM fuel cell design. This hydrogen-fueled system produces 12V DC electricity, which, when converted to 110VAC by a small inverter, can generate a continuous output of 75 watts, with a peak output of 125 watts. The pollution-free AC power can then be used to operate standard appliances.

Because the SOtB™ includes an eight-channel data acquisition (DAQ) system with a computer software interface, Ron also intends to incorporate it into the Computer Engineering Technology curriculum. The DAQ system will enable operators to record a variety of run-time data such as voltage, current, and stack temperature, while varying the operating conditions. These data can then be used, amongst other things, to calculate fuel cell efficiency or to compare the energy consumption of various devices, such as incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

For information about the first SOtB™ see our Winter 2009 newsletter at For more information about similar portable power systems go to

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