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Free MacBook vending machine dispenses quick computing at Drexel University

Students at Drexel University in Philadelphia now have a potentially GPA-saving option if they have a sudden need for a laptop -- an automated kiosk that dispenses MacBooks.

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The vending machine, which is located in the university's Hagerty library, lets Drexel students swipe their ID cards in order to check out one of 12 MacBooks for up to five hours at a time. Sensors within the laptops alert security if they are removed from the library, and the kiosk recharges their batteries after they are returned. Data stored on the MacBooks is wiped after each session.

According to Drexel, the genesis of the idea came from student government representative Omer Hashmi, who told library staff that carrying a laptop late at night from his off-campus housing posed potential security risks.

The university's libraries already operate a laptop loan program, but it is administered directly by library staff and is therefore unavailable for those working on projects particularly late at night. The vending machine program could be expanded, should the initial kiosk prove popular, to include both additional locations and the ability to borrow iPad tablets.

"This was a great opportunity to match a specific student need with library staff's ongoing exploration of cutting edge technologies. We expect the resulting initiative to improve the Drexel student's academic experience," dean of Drexel University Libraries Danuta Nitecki said in a statement.

The kiosk is made by LaptopsAnytime, which offers custom docking stations for anywhere between six and 30 laptops or netbooks. The company says its back-end software can be integrated into existing student and library database systems for easy management.

Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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