Tech startup wants to bring Sunshine, electricity to hurricane victims

Conner Hazelrigg. Photo by Austin Walsh Photography

17° 73° Innovation Co. founder Conner Hazelrigg launched a crowdfunding campaign Wednesday to provide disaster relief to Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria.

In response to the island’s electricity shortage, the tech startup wants to deploy its Sunshine Box, a portable solar-charging station that can charge 10 devices at a time. The technology is designed to narrow the gap for mobile-first tech users and provide them access to reliable, safe electricity.

The firm raised about $1,600 in less than 12 hours, Hazelrigg said, which is enough to provide three Sunshine Boxes to Puerto Ricans.

“In any sort of natural disaster situation — whether the town has been destroyed by a tornado, a flood or a hurricane — for most people, the one thing that survives with them is their cell phone. Because it’s in their pocket,” Hazelrigg said. “Everyone has their cell phone with them at all times. In emergencies, a cell phone is that tool to allows you to understand the weather, learn what’s going on and helps you be able to communicate with family.”

The waterproof box — which looks like a two-foot-wide, metal briefcase — is powered by 20-watt solar panels and features 10 electrical outlets as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. The UL-safety certified electronic device also comes with a light and fan.

The crowdfunding campaign — which was announced by Hazelrigg on KSHB Wednesday — is expected to end Oct 25. Hazelrigg wants to provide as many devices as the public is willing to support, she said.

“I personally don’t have a goal for how much we’d like to raise,” she said. “I just would like to see the gracious spirits of people to give. No matter what we end up coming up with, that’s great. It’s great to get people rallied behind something.”

Hurricane Maria isn’t the first natural disaster to prompt a need for 17° 73° Innovation Co.’s technology. In 2015, Hazelrigg traveled to the Bahamas and donated two Sunshine Boxes after Hurricane Joaquin. Earlier this month, she donated two boxes to Houston following Hurricane Harvey.

“The goal of the Sunshine Box since Day 1 has been to provide power for people who lived in energy impoverished situations,” she said. “We constantly live and breathe with cell phones. If you don’t have access to electricity and your cell phone dies, you essentially become nonexistent.”

But, the devastation in Puerto Rico led Hazelrigg to want to step up the firm’s support a notch.

“What we’ve seen in the past month or so (with extreme weather) has been horrendous and has hurt everybody, so we thought it’s time to give everybody has a chance to give,” Hazelrigg said. “Now, for the people who want to go down (to Puerto Rico) to help but can’t, this is a good way to help from a distance.”

Although hurricane victims obviously need food, water and clothing as well, providing electricity is the best way that Hazelrigg knows how to give of herself, she said.

“The goal is to keep going, and electricity is my speciality, so that’s my gift that I am able to provide to people,” Hazelrigg said. “It’s our job to use our particular talents to help people in need. That’s my firm belief.”

To help donate a Sunshine Box to Puerto Ricans in need, visit the 17° 73° Innovation Co. website or to the firm’s DonorBox page.

17° 73° Innovation Co. recently participated in the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s Innovation Partnership Program. The firm worked with the department of Parks and Recreation and plans to deploy Sunshine Boxes around Kansas City area parks by 2018.

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