November 23, 2009

Design Review: New Solar Array

Anyone who knows anything about the solar panels we have been using (which includes just about everyone except the person writing this) is aware of the various problems that have come up in the past: the panels are made for houses and not boats, output is roughly half of what it should be, and it is difficult to add thermal cooling to something that has already been built.

The goal of the project presented at the design review last week is to equip the boat with a custom-fit solar array in time for the 2010 competition. The new array should be lighter, more efficient, and, it's worth noting, a probable shoe-in for the coveted design award. No team has ever brought this kind of thermal cooling project to competition. As charming as South Hampton was last year, squirting water on their boat each time it passed the dock, we think we can do better.

The team's design attempts to combine the "best of everything." It's kind of like a sandwich that allows water to be pumped through plastic channels, cooling strips of aluminum that will in turn cool the solar cells. Below are some images from the review:

Exploded view. Sandwich ingredients from top to bottom: cells, corrugated plastic (where water runs through) with aluminum strips, fiberglass, corrugated plastic (structural, no water), fiberglass. Yum.

Cell temperature versus time and distance from the origin (in the plastic channel). Note that this model is actually incorrect. The team explained that they repeatedly crashed SolidWorks when trying to complete the modeling, so they went back to flint and did it themselves in MatLab. Which may have been a mistake...but it will be fixed for the future!

Check out the kiva for a more detailed explanation. We'll keep you updated on the progress of this project and others in the weeks to come.

November 16, 2009

Diving In

Welcome to the first post of the Fall 2009 Carnegie Mellon Solar Splash Blog! Better late than never, eh? The semester has been fairly packed as we prepare for the coming spring. Our successes and, uh, misadventures at last spring's competition only left us craving more.

First on the list was assessing equipment and getting up to speed with the state of the boat. Of course, not everything needs to be brand-spanking, shiny new for the boat to float. Along with efforts to acquire new toys, we have been salvaging what we can of last year's equipment. Or, as some of our more zealous members like to put it, "harvesting little squirrels. I believe Mike's response to that was a nervous smile and, "Okay then...well that sounds creepy."

Everyone can agree on one thing, though--money. A whole lotta money. That's what we want. For the past several weeks, Solar Splash has been networking, grant proposal-ing, and padding out budgets in an effort to fund all of our exciting endeavors. This year we were awarded a combined $1250 from Carnegie Mellon's SURG office for all proposals submitted (all of which can be found on the Kiva). As always, we are also looking into a number of other funding sources. In fact, certain unnamed (...male) Solar Splash members recently took it upon themselves to flirt shamelessly with middle-aged millionaires in the hopes that one of them would drop a big, fat check on our boat. Way to take one for the team, guys!

Never ones to turn down a chance to meet new people, Solar Splash also made an appearance at this year's SWE High School Day. The task: "explain to high school girls how engineering helped us fulfill our dreams." The general consensus was to send Paul. However smooth he is with the ladies, though, a valiant dream-sharing effort was put forth by several members, including Riddhi, Dave, Morgan, and Robbie.

More to come in future posts! In the meantime, everyone is gearing up for tomorrow's Design Review. To any alums in the area: stop by PH 125B at 5pm tomorrow, offer your feedback, and relive your college days with some free food.