Saturday, December 19, 2009


So we gave our presentations today....  I was pleased that ours worked, but am more happy to be done!!  Very happy to finish our project that we've been so dilligently working on.  The past five days had many ups and downs, which I will discuss in a bit.  First I wanted to show some pics of our final project.

It took many hours to put everything together, but compared to other groups our process went much smoother.  For part of the night I ended up helping Laura and the algae group for a bit.  I feel like they had the most construction out of all of us.  Construction that couldn't really be done outside of the gallery, but was stuff that had to be put together the night before.  Even just helping that group a little bit, it was interesting to see that no group was immune to conflict. 
To summarize the overall experience there are many topics to discuss.  One huge thing I want to discuss is what I've personally gained from this class.  When coming into the class I had ideas of what I would take away from this class, but after going through it, the lists do not match.  Going into the class I never realized how much of a stigma I had against other fields of study.  I think since we never see what each discipline does, it is harder to appreciate what work and thought goes into each part.  So seeing what has to be done to get the final product brings a new appreciation to the process.  However, I think other disciplines have stigmas against engineers too.  I think there is a stigma that engineers aren't creative and that we like to sit around and program or something.  Also there is the whole, "why isn't this possible" argument between engineers and designers.  All these sort of preceptions were dealt with with our project.  In discussions and in working, how we communicated and dealt with each other was initially limited or guided by these stigmas.  No they weren't all solved or changed, but realizing that they exsist has changed how I work and how I deal with other disciplines.  Or at least how I approach things.  Like for example, in engineering we are given specific parameters and must solve a specific thing.  In A&D, there aren't as specific parameters and what is being done isn't necessarily a specific problem.  So when we started working and we had some parameters and some freedom, we each had different difficulties with the situation.  Some of us were overwhelmed on what to do, others were fixated on having limitations.  Anyways, I'm rambling a bit, so I'll move on.
Another thing I gained from this class is learning how to build things.  This goes back to that things are way different on paper than in real life.  Seeing what a material actually is like definitely puts a new perspective on what a modulus of 3GPa actually means.
Another thing I gained from this class which may not be "interview worthy" is friends.  I know this doesn't have direct value persay, but I consider it a positive thing I gained from this class. 
Commenting on working with a group....the biggest obstacles were what each person wanted from this class.  The lack of focus also was an issue.  I am used to deadlines which helps break things up.  Also, I try to make decisions and then move on, not debate and debate forever and then ultimately get no where.  So there were some difficulties just in style of working. Overall, working in a group was not that bad.  Everyone brought something to the table, which I think made it a better project.  If we individually worked on this project, unlike what Marc said, I don't think this project would have been accomplished at least not as well rounded without all the different people.  There are subtlties that may not be displayed directly in the project but were involved in the process which was a big part of the final embodiments. 
Wow definitely ranting...I'm done. 

Crunch time!

So we have five days.....  Yeah.....  Luckily we aren't in as rough shape as I thought we would be.  We have routed most of everything and we just need to put it all together.  Here are a few pictures that were from routing the parts.  Here is the CNC router cutting through the high density poly-ethylene.  This layer is going to be the middle layer for our rows.  The squares are routed out for the solar cells

Here are a few more pics of the rows being routed.  Our final project has three layers for each row.  The two outside layers are formica and the inner layer is the high density polyethylene.

I think everyone is on schedule for the project.  I would say with the building of our prototype our group has become more segregated.  Before we did stuff together and so everyone knew what was going on.  Now that we are separated it's a lot more difficult to know what's going on and whether or not everything is working.  I believe I was more involved in the actual planning, designing, and testing of our final project, but not in the final making of it.  I've done a lot of soldering and grunt work, but in putting it together I'm pretty useless and I feel bad about that.  I've asked Matt as few times what he needs help with and I usually am told to just worry about the paper, sigh.  I know this is what my role is in this week, is to do that and then do random grunt work things, but I hate feeling out of the loop.  Before I was dictating and knowing what needed to be done, now I'm sort of just a floater.  I don't have a problem with this except when people start being sort of condescending or talk to me like I'm a five year old.  So hopefully I don't get that this week.  Otherwise I don't care what I'm doing as long as we get everything done.  No time for extra information this week...only working on the project.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Many changes, decisions set

Well compared to the previous post, our project has changed quite a bit.  Broken solar cells are no more.  In theory this was a good idea, but in practice we have many things to worry about which limits the feasibility.  Since all the cells are different and the amount of energy we would use is not the same, we have ran out of time to figure this out so are using regular solar cells.  Here are a few sketches of our updated skematics.  For a single cell, the blue is the solar cell.  Ideally, if this is implemented in the future the solar cell would be in the shape of the cell to maximize the surface area.

Here is the schematic for the full scale schematic, it has thinned down a bit from our previous schematic.

We are struggling a bit with purpose....  Jason and I really need purpose.  When I'm trying to write our white papers, not having a purpose is VERY hindering.  It is hard to justify the reason why we are doing this is because it looks interesting...  This is one thing that clearly distinguishes the engineers from the A&D and the Architects.  No matter how much this process has changed our perspective on what an engineer is, we still have not changed in our love for solving problems. 

This week we made a prototype which contains another group's solar cells.  We are going to use this to test and see whether or not our servos can actually turn this thing.  Here is a picture of what our prototype looks like (it is made of a high density polyethyene inside and a formica outside):

This weekend Matt and I tested this prototype with our two types of servos. The servos successfully turned our rows, which is great news!  They even turned them with a bit of ease, so we may not need as powerful servos.  We also had to try and figure out a way to connect these rows to the main boxes at the end.  Matt made up a sketch that we are going to try and follow.  Here it is:

Basically we need to try and find something that will support the other end of the row (the end with no motor) and let it freely rotate.  We went to Home Depot for about 3 hours.  Talked to 5 different employees and the end result..... 3 Hours + 5 Employees = WE DO IT OURSELVES
We looked at long threadless crews, lazy susans, thick pins etc.  Nothing quite right for the size and strength we need.

Random Articles:
The first article I am writing about is the World's First Osmotic Power Plant.  This reminds me of one of my friend's senior design project where they were designing a similar thing.  This plant uses the chemical potential between salt and water to generate electricity.  Unfortunately, this can only power a coffee pot....  I don't know if I should show this to my friend, may not go over well  haha.
Here is a picture of the plant:

Holiday time, so I'm going a bit lighter.  Happy (Late) Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making Stuff!!!

We got our damaged and mangeled solar cells this week!!!  Here they are....

So although these solar cells are broken, they still give us a large enough voltage that if we put them in series we will be able to charge our battery to power our microprocessors and servos. 
Also, since we are using low current things we don't really have to worry about that with our solar cells.
So we tested about 10 or so of them and we got 0.25-0.35V per cell in just dispersed light sitting in the library.  We also received broken solar cells from the solar car team.  They have generously given us about 30 different broken cells.  These solar cells gave us 1-1.2V in dispersed light. 
Later in the week we started soldering some of the cells in series to make a few units.  Here is our schematic of a single unit and then what it will look like as a whole unit. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crunch Time

Yes we have 31 an outsider this may seem like lots of time....IT IS NOT!!  Definitely crunch time.  I really, really wish we would have settled the design awhile ago, but oh well.

Now we are definitely making a solar array that is comprised of all damaged solar cells that is going to tilt to remove snow from its surface.  We don't have the shape of the solar array determined yet.  We are trying to make an interesting shape that will also not cause any collisions.  Below is our basic idea.  There will be a "box" that has solar cells on one side.  This box will be attached to a dowel that rotates to remove snow or turn away from moisture etc.  We were inspired by the Mimosa plant and how it "shys" away from any sort of stimuli.  Our motion will not be as intricate as this plant, but will work off of the same idea.

Here are other solar concepts inspired from nature.  I highlighted a few.  The entire concepts can be found here.

The first is the Power Flower by the Art Energy Design. 
This flower is both solar powered as well as wind powered.  Art Energy Designs says one of the things they hope to do is "Inspire the creation of sustainable eco-art projects".  Below is a diagram of what is in the Power Flower.

Here is another one of the solar concepts that mimics ivy leaves.  Their idea is too attach these solar cells on walls (like ivy).  If these cells get damaged or broken it would be "like shedding leaves".
Here is the ivy on a building wall.

The shiny green is the solar ivy. 

Here is a close up of the ivy wall. 

This next solar concept replaces the normal houseplant with a solar array that looks like a houseplant but really can be used to charge your devices.  It uses flexible solar cells that look like plant leaves, it's pretty interesting.  Here is the link

This is a random thing I found.  This is remote-controlled cyborg beetles that are solar powered.  They are being used to study more about beetles and also the military may be using them as well.  Here is a video of the flying beetle.

Next I found a VERY freaky green idea.  Elisabeth Buecher designed an inflatable shower curtain that becomes spikes when you have run the shower for too long.  She also has one that slowly traps you....FREAAAAKKKYYYY.......

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Viable Option

We have finally come up with an idea.  We took the mindset of just making something that looked interesting and figuring out the purpose later.  This is an EXTREMELY difficult mindset to have (at least for me it is).  Having no reason besides making something look cool is difficult to stay excited about.......HOWEVER I am comfortable with our surface, and am happy to have at least some sort of viable direction.

The budget we had to figure out really puts things into prespective.  When we started calculating the budget our design had to be modified quite a bit.  It is amazing how quickly money can get eaten up.  I was surprised as to how much the budget turned into being a constraint.  Since we are dealing with solar cells and solar energy, the expense side of our project is a huge factor on what can and cannot be done.  After hearing some of the other groups presentations and seeing that their budget was not actually calculated out...I think they're going to have to do some redesign just to stay within budget. 

We are working on cutting our costs even more by not using as many servos, and connecting the motion of various servos.  I need to add some pictures...but don't have a camera at the I'll be adding more/better info....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Still Lost....

Yeap still have nothing......Spent another four hours discussing ideas....still don't have a solid one (so no proof of our effort).....  I talked to my group about just sitting down and making stuff, got some stuff from the one wanted to....  All we need is to come up with an idea that has a purpose and we will be flying.  We still can't find a purpose.  Lots of unanswered questions.  Why do we want the surface to move?  How is that going to benefit a solar tracker?  Hopefully we get things together...but no one seems to be freaked out about not having an idea.  All I can think about it how we have 2 days to pull something together.....