Celebrating Earth Day with the Eco-Solar Capstone team

By Maya Rector

MEng students Keyu Wang (left) and David Zhang (right) testing their prototype outside of Blum Hall

Each year, UC Berkeley Master of Engineering students work on a team of 3 to 5 students with the goal of engineering solutions using cutting edge technology and methods to address crucial industry, market or societal needs. This Earth Day, we’re highlighting the Eco-Solar team comprised of Mechanical Engineering students Haixu Yin, Keyu Wang, David Zhang, Pol Molinas, and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research student Shikhar Verma.

Currently, solar energy provides five-tenths of 1 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States (1). The numbers may be daunting, but efforts to increase clean energy usage have been growing. Teams like the Eco-Solar team offer us a glimpse into the possible uses of clean energy alternatives from our very own UC Berkeley MEng students.

The Eco-Solar team posing outside of Shires Hall

The Eco-Solar team was inspired to take on the project after taking a “Capstone Tools” course in Fall 2017. They also credit their inspiration for the project to taking a human centered design class with Professor Alice Agogino. As a part of their class, they were tasked with activities to brainstorm and come up with different ideas, one of which was the Eco-Solar umbrella idea. The project was finalized in March and is being advised by Gabriel Gomes, and the team is currently working on final touches before the MEng Capstone Showcase in early May.

Eco-Solar prototype, charging two laptops at once.

The team’s project focuses on using power from a solar powered umbrella in order to charge electronic devices. Currently, up to four devices can be charged at the same time. Thanks to battery storage energy, devices can still be charged on cloudy days.

At the moment, the team is working on testing for wind proofing, water proofing, and charging rates for devices. Since they’re concerned with the effects of having multiple devices charging at once, they have been focusing on comparing the rates of charge from the solar umbrella compared to regular outlet charging rates. Ultimately, they aim to keep the cost below $250 and are considering expanding upon the project once the semester ends.

Make sure to catch the team and their prototype in action at the upcoming Capstone Showcase!

To find out more about Eco-Solar, visit their website here.

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