MSU Denver student creates device that turns phone into laptop

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Dominique Hunt wants to help reduce the digital divide in the world.

DENVER – An MSU Denver graduate recently designed a 3D printed prototype that converts your smartphone into a laptop.

Dominique Hunt graduated in industrial design in May. He said he came up with the idea called PhoneBook, a smartphone docking station that converts it into a laptop interface, when he was working for the school’s IT department 2 years ago when the pandemic forced students into distance learning. During those first few months, he said, many students called the department looking for computers.

“The influx of students calling and saying they didn’t have resources that needed to log in at the time was really just the spark,” he said. “Hearing all these stories, I knew that the issue of estrangement was leaving people behind. “

It’s a story Hunt knows well when he grew up in Kenya after his parents moved there when he was 6. He said that’s where his passion for industrial design started when he was in high school.

“My high school teacher, she taught industrial design in my art class,” Hunt said. “My love for design really started to show when I realized how we can create better sustainable solutions through design. “

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He said that in his hometown in Kenya, sustainability and environmental protection are ingrained in their daily practices.

Hunt said his prototype weighs less than a pound because it contains a removable keyboard that houses a rechargeable battery. He said his idea may be an affordable way to help bridge the digital divide in the world because it has so few components that each directory can cost less than $ 100.

“Those who don’t have access to the technology are somewhat at a disadvantage not being able to experiment or learn,” Hunt said. “Kenya is extremely connected to the Internet (and) over the past decade it has achieved over 90% connectivity per person.”

“You knew right away that he had merit that went far beyond the classroom,” said Amy Kern, associate professor at MSU Denver, Ph.D. “Even small villages now have access to it. 3D printing, so if they have the file, they can print it anywhere in the world. “

Hunt developed the concept in an advanced industrial design course taught by Kern. She said the class is structured for students to develop projects that can be applied to real life.

“We were able to use his talent and sensitivity and really turn him into a very usable product in a way that can affect the lives of more people,” Kern said.

This month, Hunt’s prototype won second place at the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, a global competition that encourages students to design products and services to improve the lives of people of all ages. Out of 222 entries from 37 countries, Hunt was the top American finisher.

“With technology being so closely linked, especially during the pandemic, when we’re relying on it more than any other time, that made it really important,” Hunt said. “Just being home didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything because I didn’t want to live that way.”

For more information, visit the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge website.

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