SOLAR TRACKING ROBOT

In 2011, a I was assigned to use the scientific method to test a hypothesis. Excited about clean energy, I chose to explore if more power is collected using solar panels that track the sun as compared to a typical installation with fixed panels.

To differentiate these approaches, I built a computer-controlled solar panel that followed the sun as it crossed the sky. Having absolutely no experience constructing this type of thing, I realized that I would need to use simple building materials and an easily programmable computer. Foam core and an Arduino microcontroller came to the rescue.

1. DESIGN
My first step was to design the tracker.
2. ASSEMBLY
Then I cut each piece of foam core to size and glued them together.
3. SCHEMATIC
I drew a schematic showing how to wire the solar panel, computer, and motors.
4. SOLDERING
The final assembly required soldering the electrical components together.
5. PROGRAMMING
Last, I programmed the Arduino to track the sun.
6. SETUP
On a bright, sunny day, I setup my tracker in the front yard.
7. DATA COLLECTION
I recorded the amount of power generated from dawn to sunset, using both methods.
8. RAW DATA
This is my data of the voltage, current, and wattage recorded at 15 minute intervals.
9. RESULTS
The power generated by tracking is shown in blue, and with a fixed position in green.
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2011 SCIENCE FAIR AND BROADCOM MASTERS COMPETITION

Thinking of my school science project as just homework, I was very surprised when I won Best in Division and the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit Award at the Santa Barbara County Science Fair. I went on to compete at the California State Science Fair, where I was awarded First Place in the Alternative Energy Division. Finally, I entered my project in the Broadcom MASTERS Science Fair, where I became a national semifinalist.

1. CALIFORNIA STATE SCIENCE FAIR

Me and my project at the CA State Fair.

2. BROADCOM MASTERS

I was honored to be awarded one of the top 200 science projects in the nation.

3. TIME LAPSE

A short time lapse movie of my solar tracker to show judges at the competition.

zoe@reifel.org

805.689.0014

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