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Mobile Solar Demonstration System


A team of graduate students from the University of Delaware— Cory Budischak, Erik Koepf, Keith Douglass, and Sarah Mastroianni with Steve Hegedus— developed educational tools about solar energy. The students began with four unused, 15-year-old modules that were donated by Steve Hegedus, a scientist at the Institute for Energy Conservation at the University of Delaware.

“The real challenge was to build a system with all the standard components that would be safe for kids to experiment with,” says Koepf.

The final product—a mobile solar demonstration system—is a PV system on wheels. The self-contained unit, includes four PV modules that can be tilted at different angles, two charge controllers, six batteries, and two inverters.

A set of lesson plans developed by the team combines in-class lectures with outdoor experiments that allow students to wire the components together to power lights and fans and even recharge a remote-controlled toy car. Lessons blend science and math with the basics of solar energy capture, storage, conversion, and conservation.

“The experiments allow students to see for themselves how array output varies with the tilt and orientation of the array or how the charging current of the batteries varies with temperature and voltage,” says Budischak, who is pursuing his doctorate in electrical engineering. “

Based on those initial reactions, the Newark Center for Creative Learning (NCCL) in Delaware plans to integrate the solar learning lab into the curriculum for grades 5 to 8.

The team intends to evolve the design and develop lessons that will appeal to a range of grade levels, from preschool up to university levels. Future enhancements include a smallscale wind turbine and data-logging multimeters that will enable students to analyze information about the system. Also underway is the design of a solar water pumping system that will include a series of fountains, where the distance the water travels through or out of the fountain will depend on output from the PV modules.

Address Goals

This work was presented at a conference, Erik Koepf* and Cory Budischak*, “A Mobile Solar-PV Demonstration System for Hands-On Learning and Curriculum Development,” Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference, Saratoga, NY, 8 – 10 March 2011, and generated a great deal of interest.