On Wednesday, October 24, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) celebrated the official unveiling of Solar Interact with a ribbon cutting at the Sustainability Resource Center. Solar Interact is an exhibit where a user can interact with solar energy through a hand crank generator game. The user picks a difficulty level on the tablet and competes with a simulated solar panel located on top of Price Center. The goal of the game is to generate more power than a solar panel for 30 seconds. The different difficulty modes come from competing against different size solar panels. The solar panel measurements are from the solar panels on top of Price Center during peak hours of the day.
The lights on Geisel will light up corresponding to the instantaneous power generated by the solar panel on the left side and the user on the right side. This output of instantaneous power can also be seen on the tablet.
The beginning of the game is initialized by the tablet sending the Arduino a start message via bluetooth. The Arduino begins reading measurements from the 3D printed crank. The 3D printed crank is attached through a metal rod to an encoder. The encoder tracks the rate at which the crank spins and reports this information to the Arduino microcontroller. The Arduino microcontroller processes the information and sends power output to the tablet via bluetooth. The Arduino also lights up the Geisel model with both the solar panel information and the user information. When the game ends, the tablet sends an end game message to the Arduino.
The goal of this project is to create an educational exhibit related to the positive impacts of using solar energy over electrical energy. It also features an interactive game where a user attempts to generate more energy than a solar panel through a hand crank. Not only is this exhibit educational, but it will also provide a service in the form of an interactive map of UC San Diego’s Price Center, and allow three engineering disciplines to gain hands-on experience in one project.
Learn more about Solar Interact here.