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A Solar Powered Art Project Provides A Remote Green Energy Laboratory For Engineering Technology Students

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Project-Based Student Learning: Part II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.110.1 - 14.110.11



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Paper Authors


Dale Litwhiler Pennsylvania State University, Berks

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Dale H. Litwhiler is an Associate Professor at Penn State, Berks Campus in Reading, PA. He received his B.S. from Penn State University (1984), his M.S. from Syracuse University (1989) and his Ph.D. from Lehigh University (2000) all in electrical engineering. Prior to beginning his academic career in 2002, he worked with IBM Federal Sys-tems and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems as a hardware and software design engineer.

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Frances Jallu Pennsylvania State University, Berks

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Frances Jallu is an Electromechanical Engineering Technology student at Penn State Berks in Reading, PA. She received her associate degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Penn State (2008). She is a research assistant for the EET program. Upon graduation, she is looking forward to a career in green energy.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Solar-Powered Art Project Provides a Remote Green Energy Laboratory for Engineering Technology Students Abstract An outdoor campus art project required some technology to help create a more meaningful experience for its beholders. The canvas for the artwork is a bus stop shelter structure that is no longer used by the local transit authority. The required technology is a custom solar- powered audio system. The glass walls of the bus stop shelter are covered with translucent vinyl overlays containing candid photographs of campus students and faculty. The audio system plays recorded sound bite excerpts from interviews with students, faculty, and distinguished campus guests. The theme of the artwork experience is “Knowledge is Power” and is intended to provide campus visitors with a glimpse into some of the activities of the college. The custom audio system was designed, built and installed by faculty, staff, and students in the engineering technology department. When the system was designed, the opportunity was taken to include the required electronics to monitor and record the health and status of the solar panel and battery power system. The data obtained from the system is used to help engineering technology students understand the characteristics and performance of solar energy systems. The system contains all of the typical components of large solar power systems. The south-facing side of the structure contains a small stationary (non-sun-tracking) solar panel. The sound system enclosure contains a sealed lead-acid (SLA) battery. The charging of the battery is controlled by electronics on a custom circuit board within the sound system. This circuit board also contains a microcontroller to control operation of the embedded MP3 player and amplifier. Another on- board microcontroller performs the power system measurements, stores the data in non-volatile memory and transfers the data to an external computer via the serial port when queried. By analyzing the voltage and current measurements for the solar panel and battery as well as the battery temperature, engineering technology students can see how the system functions for various combinations of sunlight, battery state of charge, temperature, and power demand from the load. The students gain appreciation for how proper power management is crucial in “Green” energy systems. This paper presents the system design constraints, features, problems and modifications. Typical raw data as well as student-analyzed data is also presented. The ways in which the system is used in the engineering technology curriculum is also provided.

Motivation / Overview

The authors were approached by the campus art director for assistance with developing an interactive and informative work of art. The work was to incorporate audio clips from recorded interviews with students and faculty together with enlarged candid photographs displayed across the sides of a bus shelter structure. The bus shelter was no longer being used by the transportation authority, however, the structure was not to be modified in any way that could not easily be restored to the original configuration. The major design constraints were as follows:

Litwhiler, D., & Jallu, F. (2009, June), A Solar Powered Art Project Provides A Remote Green Energy Laboratory For Engineering Technology Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4954

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