The design process and what changed:
Through this project, Emma and I learned a lot about the design process, including steps such as initial brainstorming, gaining feedback, creating new iterations of our design, collection materials, and construction. Our initial design began with a simple structure that consisted of a solar panel supported in the middle by vertical posts. This evolved into an art piece, as we realized that the structure needed to be aesthetically pleasing in order to attract people to use it. We added wood panels initially in order to create more of an enclosed space, so that people who use it would not be as exposed to the elements. We later added the turtle shell decorative pieces onto the wood panels in order to add a dual purpose to the structure (to provide electricity and to serve as an art installation promoting school pride).
We went through many iterations of the design of our project, changing everything from the way that the wood panels will be decorated to the material that we used to build the metal frame. These changes were based on the suggestions of people such as faculty mentors, our peers, and as a result of doing research. In terms of the metal frame, faculty mentors were instrumental in helping to create it. In the beginning we were planning on buying metal and then either bolting or welding it together to make the structure. But at the suggestion of one of our mentors we found out that the Electrical Engineering Department possessed two discarded metal structures, which we could disassemble and weld into the metal frame. This option was much cheaper than buying new metal and was also more sustainable as it used recycled materials.
In the Future
Moving forward, we hope to finish construction and installation of the solar awning by early June. Currently we have finished constructing the metal frame and are working on attaching the wood panels to the frame. After that the plan is to integrate the solar component of our project by attaching the solar panels and wiring the system up.
Once the structure is freestanding, the next step is to secure it in the ground across the lawn from Prince Frederick Hall. We have been in contact with facilities management, and they suggested that we add metal plates onto the 4 vertical posts, since it would be easy to bolt these metal plates into the concrete on either side of the bench. We also plan on adding about a foot of length to the curved portion of the frame. Facilities management will then dig two holes in the grass behind the bench, and we will drop the ends of the curved portion of the frame into the holes. These holes will be filled with concrete, further securing the bench to the ground.
Images of what has been assembled so far can be seen under the construction tab, as well as in the main gallery.
In the more distant future, we hope to create a replication plan for our awning and pitch it to the university as something that could be installed around campus. This would alleviate some of the load on the campus power grid in a sustainable manner, as well as provide more places for students to study around campus.