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Warm Up, Cook, Recharge: A Smart Tool Born of Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Nov 13, 2012   |   by Kevin Fallon   |   The Daily Beast

It was originally meant for hikers, but the BioLite CampStove [co-founded by Jonathan Cedar ’03 and Jonathan den Hartog ’03 Th’05], which converts wood-burning fire into electricity to charge cellphones, could revolutionize disaster relief.

The image of groups of displaced refugees huddled around a contained fire during a blackout or after a major storm is certainly a familiar one. But charging their iPhones at the same time?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a follow-up storm of relief efforts blew into the New York-New Jersey area. Volunteers flocked to the most devastated areas. The Army Corps of Engineers sent a “SWAT” team of dewatering experts to help drain flooded subway tunnels. And on the ground level, one of the most useful tools to emerge is a genius new spin on the most basic of emergency devices: the campfire.

The BioLite CampStove is about the size of a coffee urn. Developed as the hot new toy for hikers, the stove houses a small fire that burns from hunter-gatherer fuel sources—dry twigs, pinecones—and, in addition to warmth, generates electricity for users to charge mobile devices. You can cook on it, too. But with hundreds of thousands of people without power for days following the wrath of Sandy, and many in the New York region still in the dark, a serendipitous new function of the CampStove—disaster relief—has come to light.

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