FAQs
Common questions regarding our products

We are more than happy to assist our customers with inquiries about our products. But before you call us, some of the more common answers can be found in the sections below.

Any further questions relate to your deployment can be directed to EarthWalk’s technical support:

(888) 213-4900 (U.S. domestic)      |      Tech Support Contact Form

Basic Use of Your EarthWalk Cart

The beauty of all EarthWalk computer carts and stations are ease of use.

Your cart/station requires just one standard electrical outlet and one Ethernet drop. Just plug it into both, and you’re ready to work.

An Ethernet connection is only necessary if/when you want a “hardwired” connection to your school’s network.

You may use your devices as independent computers, with just one electrical plug to the cart.

Many instructors like to assign a specific device to a student so that they can monitor its use (or abuse).

Hand out or have the students retrieve the devices, walk through the start-up sequence, and assign the day’s task.

BEFORE HANDING OUT THE DEVICES:

  • Remind your students that this is an expensive tool and should be HANDLED WITH CARE.
  • The students should have clean hands.
  • Neither food or any liquids should be permitted around the desk area where the devices will be used.
  • Students should be instructed to carry the devices carefully with two hands.
 

HANDING OUT THE DEVICES:

  • Call the students one at a time to collect each assigned device.
  • Monitor that the students are handling the units carefully as they return to their desks.
  • Review the correct method of opening and powering up the units.
  • Every precaution should be taken to avoid dropping the devices or banging them on hard surfaces.
 

ACCESSORIES:

  • A printer can be networked or connected locally.
  • You may have an external battery system for your devices; these units should be fully charged, connected and deployed with the devices. External batteries provide freshly-charged batteries for extended work time.

While not complicated, it is very important to walk your students through the correct “shut down” procedures after every lesson, then collect the devices and return them to their respective slots.

For maximum battery life, DO NOT connect the AC power cord unless the laptop battery is fully discharged.

Lock the cart for security.

POWER DOWN THE DEVICES & RETURN TO THE CART:

  • Users should be instructed to close all files and applications, then power down the devices.
  • Call the students one at a time to return the laptops to the specific storage bay assigned to that device.
  • Do a quick check to verify that each device has indeed been shut down. You can do this quickly and easily by checking the power light. This light will turn off when the computer has shut down.
  • Make a visual assessment of the condition of the returned laptop.
  • For maximum battery life DO NOT plug in the charging cord unless the devices battery has been fully depleted.
  • Double check to see that every laptop has been returned to its assigned bay.
  • Close and lock the front doors.
  • The cart can remain plugged in to the electrical outlet & the network uplink so that the devices can be recharged or re-imaged.
  • We recommend you keep an incident log to note any problems with the devices. If a device was accidentally dropped or did not perform appropriately, the incident log is an excellent communication tool. Devices are often used by more than one student and/or are under the supervision of more than one instructor.

Yes. You can leave the cart plugged into an electrical outlet overnight. The EarthWalk HE charging system monitors the amount of power required by the devices. Leaving the devices recharging for longer periods will not harm the batteries’ performance. Batteries should be fully charged, removed and stored separately in a cool dry place for extended periods of inactivity, such as summer break. For maximum battery lifespan DO NOT plug in the charging cord unless the battery is fully depleted.

Make sure the primary power switch on the rear of the cart is in the “ON” position. Make sure the charging cabled are firmly connected to each device.

For maximum battery life, completely discharge batteries before recharging. For example, if you only use your device for a one-hour session and return it to the cart, DO NOT plug in the charging cord unless the device indicates the battery charge is low. Many users try to extend the battery run time by “topping off” or partially charging the batteries during breaks or lunch. This will provide a short term charge for that day, however it greatly decreases the operational life span of the battery and will cause it to need replacement much more frequently.

To the devices, both charging systems are the same: They both deliver the amount of DC current & voltage that the devices request. Neither AC Adapters or the HE Charging System PUSH POWER. They only SUPPLY the power that is requested by the devices.

The primary design difference between AC Adapter charging and EarthWalk’s High-Efficiency (HE) charging is that instead of having a large number of small power supplies (one AC Adapter for each device), you have a central power supply system that is much more energy efficient. The HE system also includes a circuit control board which splits the available power source between the number of devices requesting power and protects each distribution cable from surges, shorts or foreign objects with an auto-resetting protection circuit.

When charging a large number of laptops, being more energy efficient has numerous advantages:

  • Each standard AC adapter can draw more than 1 Amp of electricity from the wall circuit, so 32 units could easily draw over 40 Amps of power. This would overload a standard 20A electrical circuit if all devices were being charged simultaneously. Therefore, to prevent circuit overload, many AC Adapter charging systems require some sort of electrical timer or switch that rotates through groups of devices during the charging process.
  • The HE central charging system draws a maximum of 15 Amps for up to 32 devices. Normal operating electrical draw during the charging cycle could be as low as 5 Amps total. This means that ALL devices can be charged simultaneously without overloading a standard wall outlet.
  • A comparative analogy would be cooling a 32-unit apartment building with 32 window units or using a more energy-efficient central air conditioning system. The central system can cool the entire building faster at a fraction of the electrical cost.
 

Other major advantages to using HE Charging:

  • Pre-wired, ready to use, no installation of adapters is needed
  • AC adapters are freed up to be used outside the cart when needed
  • Operational savings in reduced electrical cost of $100-$300 per year, per cart
 

NOTE: HE Charging is only compatible with specific laptops. Please contact an EarthWalk sales rep to discuss your devices.

The laptops have built-in function keys to control the contrast of the monitor’s image. Hold down the appropriate “Function” key and you can increase or decrease the contrast. It may also be advisable to lower the overhead lights in the classroom to reduce the glare on the screen. One key to remember is that a brighter screen setting requires and uses more battery power.

It is highly recommended that two adults move the cart. Although the carts roll relatively easily, they are rather heavy when fully loaded with equipment. Make sure the Ethernet AND electrical connections are unplugged and the cords are properly stowed before moving a cart. Adults should move the carts and set them up for the next classroom teacher.

Troubleshooting Tips

Make sure that the batteries are seated correctly and secured into the battery slot. Place the battery’s female connection over the corresponding male connection in the battery slot. Gently tap the battery to insure that a connection has been made. Try more than one battery. If the LEDs do not light up, turn off the SmartCart’s main power switch and unplug the cart from the electrical outlet, in preparation for step 2.

  • Ensure that the BatteryBay’s power cord is plugged into the power strip in the adjacent compartment on the right of the BatteryBay. The power strip is mounted at the rear of this compartment. Make sure the strip’s power switch is in the “On” position.  If the switch is already in the “On” position, press the power strip’s reset button.  Plug the SmartCart’s power cord into the electrical outlet and turn on the main power switch.
  • If the LEDs are still not illuminated, check that the BatteryBay’s power switch is in the “On” position.  The BatteryBay’s power switch is located in the rear of the BatteryBay housing.  Two people are needed to remove the BatteryBay.  Open the BatteryBay drawer completely and gently continue to pull forward until the BatteryBay slides three-quarters (3/4) of the-way forward.  Caution: Do not pull the BatteryBay too far forward. You could pull it completely out of the compartment, possibly causing the unit to fall to the floor and/or causing damage to the floor, equipment or injury to yourself. Carefully close the drawer and hold the BatteryBay by its sides, placing your hands in the center to distribute its weight evenly. With help from another person, gently remove the BatteryBay from the compartment and look at the switch at the rear of the housing to ensure the switch is in the “On” position.
  • If the switch is in the “On” position, return the BatteryBay to the shelf and contact Customer Support to arrange for a service repair technician to assist you further. NOTE: The LED of a fully charged battery will not illuminate. To check the battery’s charge, plug it into the eBuddy and use the operating system power management to check the percentage of battery charge.

Two fresh AA batteries should be installed in the keyboard and in the correct manner.

  • Ensure that the keyboard is pointed at the IR Detector. The wireless keyboard uses Infrared light, which requires an unobstructed line-of-sight to operate correctly.
  • Check to see if your IR Detector’s LED is illuminated. If not, check that the USB connector is properly inserted into the USB port on your PC.
  • Make sure that the proper USB drivers are installed and working correctly. Please refer to your system settings in the Windows control panel for more information. TIP: Remove the IR Detector’s USB connector from your PC and reinsert it. Your system should attempt to recognize and install the necessary drivers (Win98, 2000, XP only).

Make sure you’ve properly connected the VGA cable to both your eBuddy’s DB15 or VGA output port and the DB15 or VGA input port on your presentation device.

  • Confirm that you have selected the appropriate VGA video input on your presentation device, designated as VGA1 or VGA2.
  • Simultaneously press the FN F4 (eBuddy 3, 4 series) FN F3 (eBuddy 5 and 6 Series) keys two times. This should force your computer to send the video signal to both your eBuddy and presentation device. Press them once if you would like to only have content displayed on your monitor.

Confirm that the audio cable from your presentation device is connected to the eBuddy audio output.

Make sure you’ve connected the audio cable to the appropriate audio input ports on your presentation device, designated as PC Audio or PC Audio 1 or 2.

  • Make certain you’ve adjusted the volume control appropriately on both the presentation device and on the eBuddy.
  • For other problems more specific to your monitor or Digital projector model, please refer to the user manual included with your product prior to contacting Customer Support.

Charging & Batteries

To maximize the usable life of a “Lithium-Ion battery pack” during long periods of inactivity, it is recommended that devices’ batteries be fully charged, disconnected from charging sources and stored in a cool, dry location during periods of inactivity. The batteries will slowly, slightly discharge during long periods of inactivity and once ready to be used again, any remaining partial charge in batteries should be fully depleted then fully recharged for maximum operational run time.

NOTE: To maximize a battery’s life, each charge cycle of the battery should be fully depleted and then fully recharged. Partial discharging and re-charging will shorten the battery’s run-time and usable life span faster.

NOTE: Carts should be unplugged or powered down via master power switch on rear of cart.

  • Ensure that the BatteryBay’s power cord is plugged into the power strip in the adjacent compartment on the right of the BatteryBay. The power strip is mounted at the rear of this compartment. Make sure the strip’s power switch is in the “On” position. If the switch is already in the “On” position, press the power strip’s reset button.  Plug the SmartCart’s power cord into the electrical outlet and turn on the main power switch.
  • If the LEDs are still not illuminated, check that the BatteryBay’s power switch is in the “On” position.  The BatteryBay’s power switch is located in the rear of the BatteryBay housing.  Two people are needed to remove the BatteryBay.  Open the BatteryBay drawer completely and gently continue to pull forward until the BatteryBay slides three-quarters (3/4) of the-way forward.  Caution: Do not pull the BatteryBay too far forward. You could pull it completely out of the compartment, possibly causing the unit to fall to the floor and/or causing damage to the floor, equipment or injury to yourself. Carefully close the drawer and hold the BatteryBay by its sides, placing your hands in the center to distribute its weight evenly. With help from another person, gently remove the BatteryBay from the compartment and look at the switch at the rear of the housing to ensure the switch is in the “On” position.
  • If the switch is in the “On” position, return the BatteryBay to the shelf and contact Customer Support to arrange for a service repair technician to assist you further. NOTE: The LED of a fully charged battery will not illuminate. To check the battery’s charge, plug it into the eBuddy and use the operating system power management to check the percentage of battery charge.

No, see above–This will shorten the battery’s usable life span. Full discharge and re-charge cycle is recommended.

Lithium-ion batteries are at least 30% lighter, and have at least 30% more capacity than their NiMH or NiCad counterparts.

Lithium-ion batteries require a special type of charging technique. They should ONLY be recharged with approved, dedicated Lithium-ion chargers.

A Lithium-Ion battery will accept a rapid charge, but must be slow-charged the last 15% of its charge cycle. They should be charged at a rate between conventional slow chargers and a rapid charge.

Lithium-ion has no memory effect and a long life cycle, with excellent discharge performance.

Lithium-ion battery life is based on the number of times it’s recharged, which is approximately 500 cycles (when properly recharged.)

The Lithium-ion batteries installed in our eBuddy semi-rugged laptops are either 6-cell or 9-cell configurations.

In order to maximize the life of these batteries, users should recharge batteries when the power indicator displays below 13% in the Windows Power Management Accessory located in the Control Panel. This ensures that the charge contained in each of the 6 cells has been nearly depleted prior to recharging.

For instance, if the batteries are recharged at 85% in a 6-cell Lithium-ion battery, only the first two cells will be recharged during this cycle, lowering the life of these cells. This creates a much shorter overall life cycle, since the first two cells have had their life expectancy shortened due to improper recharging.

CLICK HERE to find a recycling center in your area, or call 1-877-2-RECYCLE (1-877-273-2925)

Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation
The RBRC educates the public about, and promotes the recycling of, rechargeable batteries found in power tools, cordless and cellular phones, camcorders, laptop computers, and digital cameras. Consumers, retail establishments, and public agencies can all play a role in significantly reducing the number of batteries entering our solid waste stream

Battery Council International
BCI actively educates state and federal officials about the battery manufacturing and recycling industries, in an effort to enact uniform battery recycling requirements. BCI also provides technical assistance to states implementing battery recycling programs.

Portable Rechargeable Battery Association
The mission of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association is to provide leadership in obtaining consistent domestic and international solutions to environmental and other issues affecting the use, recycling, and disposal of small, sealed rechargeable batteries

CLICK HERE to find a recycling center in your area, or call 1-877-2-RECYCLE (1-877-273-2925)

Summer Storage

These steps are ideal at the end of the school year and then just prior to a new school year in order to protect the lifespan of your USB-C devices’ batteries.

STEPS—Before long-term storage
  • Fully charge the devices.
  • Disconnect devices from all charging sources (unplug from cart).
  • Power down and/or unplug the cart(s) via primary power cord.
  • Store devices in a cool, dry location—in or out of the cart(s).

The batteries will normally discharge slightly during long periods (2-3 months) of inactivity and once ready to be used again, any remaining partial charge in batteries should be fully depleted then fully recharged for maximum operational run time.

STEPS—To redeploy the devices
  • Open and power-up each device.
  • If each USB-C device powers up, use as normal and return to charging cart as needed.
  • If a device does NOT power up, connect it to its factory-supplied AC adapter for at least 10-15 minutes
    to initialize the charging/power process.
  • Once devices have been properly initialized, the cart can be plugged in and powered on; at that point
    devices can be connected inside.
  • The system should then be used normally until long-term storage needs to be repeated.

EarthWalk values our customers, and we would like to share with you the Google-recommended best practices for storing Chromebooks for extended periods of time as well as preparation for these devices prior to the new school year.

STEPS—Before long-term storage

Typically Chromebooks are in stand-by mode, when the screen eventually turns off, but the device still uses a bit of power. What you want to do is shut down each Chromebook, so there is no trickle of power needed and the battery’s current lasts longer for extended periods of time—like summer break. More detailed description as follows:

Charge the Chromebooks so the batteries are at least 80% full. One by one:

  • Connect device to a charger and turn it on.
  • Hold Refresh and Power buttons at the same time:
  • While still holding these keys, remove the power cable from the device and then release
    the keys. The device should shut down and remain off.
  • To confirm battery disconnect, press the power button. The Chromebook should not power on
    despite having a battery charge. It won’t power on by touching the power button or opening the lid
    until you plug the device back into a power source.
  • Store in a cool, dry location.

NOTE: If you can’t put your model of Chromebook into the battery disconnect state described above, charge the battery to at least 80%. Then turn off the device, unplug it from a power source, and store it in a cool, dry place.

STEPS—To redeploy the devices

About a week before classes resume, follow these steps to prepare for use:

  • Connect the Chromebooks to the factory-supplied AC adapters and connect to a power source.
    This is needed to get them out of the battery disconnect state.
  • Power up your devices.
  • Connect your Chromebooks to WiFi and update them to the latest Chrome OS release. This could take
    some time if there have been multiple versions released swince the last time devices were updated.

The best course of action concerning long-term/non-use of SideKick PowerPack batteries (i.e., summer school break) is to leave them plugged in and charging. Once the SideKick batteries are charged, very little power is consumed while they are on “trickle charge”—meaning the batteries cannot be over-charged. If it’s not possible to leave the mobile labs or eChargers plugged in, the batteries should be fully charged before being unplugged. At this point they should last between 3-5 weeks before they will need to be recharged again.

NOTE: If the voltage of the batteries drops below a certain point, the internal charging boards will not have enough power to initiate the charging process. In this case, the batteries would need to be returned to EarthWalk to be “jump started.”

Powering Up SideKick PowerPacks 
When SideKick PowerPacks do get unplugged for a few days (for example, the room is to be cleaned or painted), you need to make certain that the switch on the back of the mobile lab cart or the eCharger is in the “OFF” position, then plug in the mobile lab cart or eCharger, and then set the switch to the “ON” position.

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