Battery Power (STEM)

For this project, students were expected to design and build a device incorporating electric power that is portable, sustainable, and meets a need.  In a twist that “upped” the challenge factor, students not only had to design the actual output for the project but were also asked to plan a unique exhibition of their work.  Exhibition, audience, format, timing, and scheduling were all up to the students. Both the devices themselves and the venues in which the students have showcased their efforts were diverse, creative, and impressive!

#1 – The Electric Go-Cart

Dylan, Alex K., Grant, and Tyler have been on a quest – a quest to build a solar power rechargeable electric go-cart.  Like all good quests, this one will probably need multiple volumes to come to its dramatic and satisfying conclusion.  For their exhibition, they created a documentary detailing their work thus far (see below) and will be consulting with the tech-engineering class to help problem solve the remaining issues.

#2 – The Solar-Powered Tyke Car

Siobhan, Ziare, Destene, and Grayson rehabilitated an old broken down tyke car, including a complete re-wire, AND made it solar powered by constructing a solar power charging station for the car’s batteries.  In addition to meeting the need for fun, this group used their project as a kid-friendly way to educate young students about sustainable energy and solar power.  To prepare they had to take a complex project and explain it at two levels – in a technical description directed at an adult audience and in educational materials directed to an elementary audience (which you can read here).  As their culminating exhibition, they took a road trip to Whitby School and demonstrated their project to an elementary level class, including test drives!  Everyone had a blast!!  You can read more about it in this Greenwich Free Press article.

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The Solar Powered Tyke Car group visits Whitby School!

#3 – The Atmospheric Water Generator

Kai, Jari, Molly, and Jovanni are trying to help solve a major public health issue – the availability of potable water in developing nations.  Their idea?  A personal atmospheric water generator that harnesses solar energy to power a dehumidifier (to condense water from the atmosphere) and provides water filtration to ensure the water is safe to drink.  Initial research and design attempts served to clarify how humid the atmosphere would need to be and how much power would be required to condense a given volume of water on an average day.  The group also conducted tests to analyze the extent of water filtration likely necessary to make that water “clean” enough to drink.  Turns out there are A LOT of technical challenges to be resolved to bring their concept to fruition.  Thus, the team has enlisted the help of engineers and designers at MIT’s D-Lab. Have a look at the technical proposal they forwarded to the D-Lab here.

#4 – The Nanoporous Graphene Desalination Membrane Documentary

Sofia, Kathryn, and Rob also opted for a project centered on water availability and began diving into desalination (pun intended!).  They were inspired by the work of Dr. David Cohen-Tanugi on nanoporous graphene as a reverse osmosis membrane and decided to make a documentary about him and his work.  They reached out to Dr. Cohen-Tanugi, who has generously offered his time and expertise via emails and Skype interviews.  Based upon these communications, and close reading of his MIT dissertation as well as several peer-reviewed scientific journal articles on the subject (e.g. this article published in Nature Magazine) the group has crafted a documentary script stunning in its level of technical detail and accuracy.  Based on the quality of their work, the group has been invited to screen their finished documentary as part of Bruce Museum’s Sunday Science at the Seaside Center. As a stunning example of the real-world professionalism promoted by Innovation Lab – the three also have a signed technology licensing agreement with MIT granting them permission to use data and figures from Dr. Cohen-Tanugi’s dissertation in their documentary!

Based on the quality of their work, the group was invited to screen their finished documentary as part of Bruce Museum’s Sunday Science at the Seaside Center.  On September 4th, Sofia and Kathryn debuted their documentary “Nanoporous Graphene: A Filter For the Future” (video below) to a packed house at the Seaside Center!!

The screening of the documentary was then followed by a Question and Answer Session (video below), during which Kathryn and Sofia fielded a variety of insightful and complex questions from the particularly engaged and curious audience.

Members of the press were also on hand to take photos and interview the filmmakers.  The result?  A front-page article in the print version of the Greenwich Time, as well as several online articles, including these from the Greenwich Time, the Greenwich Sentinel, and the Associated Press.

#5 – Hydropower!!!

Katherine, Nicole, Angelina, and Flora aimed to construct small modular hydropower devices that can recharge standard rechargeable batteries, and then install them in our campus waterfall.  They tested three different waterwheel prototypes, but found that none of their initial designs would generate the current and voltage necessary to recharge a standard rechargeable battery.  They have presented all of their work in exquisite detail on their very own hydropower website.


The hydropower team in action.

#6 – The Piezoelectric Power Proposal

Chloe prepared a proposal for the installation of piezoelectric tiles in high foot-traffic areas of Greenwich High School with the dual purpose aim of providing energy offset for the building as a whole, as well as providing an entertaining, high-visibility format to educate students and staff about issues of sustainable energy.

#7 – “Solar Smoothies”

Rylie, Julia, Jane, Fjolla, and Sofi sold “Solar Smoothies!”  They built a solar power charging station/food preparation cart that uses sustainable energy to power two smoothie blenders.   They made and sold their own signature recipe smoothies to InLab parents and students.


Building and exhibiting the “Solar Smoothies” cart

#8 – The Miniature Vertical Axis Windmill

Alex S. has been creating prototype after prototype of a small scale vertical axis windmill with the intent of manufacturing a portable device that can be attached to the frame of a bicycle or the window of a car so that users can charge their cell phones or other small electronics while traveling from place to place. After designing and testing two different 3D printed designs, and a third wood and metal design, Alex realized that he had not properly accounted for Bernouilli’s principle in his designs and that therefore his speed of rotation and power output were sub-optimal.


Alex’s tests of his three prototypes.

#9 – STEM Stories (A Personal Narrative)

Juliana began her journey trying to make a backpack that harnesses solar energy to filter water and charge a cell phone, then shifted focus to solar-powered decorative lawn lights.  Along the way she learned some fundamental truths about the nature of STEM including 1) things seldom if ever turn out the way you pictured them at the outset, 2) progress is a meandering journey, not a straight shot, and 3) frequently you can learn more from what doesn’t work than what does.  Leveraging her strong literary bent, Juliana has opted to chronicle her experiences in a personal narrative.

#10 – The Solar-Powered Robot (Its name is Frónt)

Calvin, Kevin, and Andrew are trying to help out the GHS Robotics Team by building a portable solar charging station that can recharge both the nickel-metal hydride battery that powers the team’s robot (whose name is Frónt) and the lithium-ion battery of the Android platform phone that serves as the remote control for the robot.  Stepping down the voltage from the charging station to what the phone can handle has been a real engineering challenge, requiring the gentlemen to design, solder, and test their own circuits to provide just the right amount of resistance.  Check out the Instructables post that served as the group’s exhibition!


Planning and building for the solar-powered robot.

#11 – A Better Solar-Powered Cell Phone Charger

Tess and Riley have proven the old adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself”!  They built their own compact solar charger for cell phones.  Their version – which they soldered, wired, sewed, and tested themselves – is cheaper, lighter, and works BETTER (provides more current and a faster charging time) than a commercially available version they used for comparison.  For their exhibition, they demo-ed their product (and gave out lollipops!) to enthusiastic students.


Solar-powered cell phone charger is a real draw!

#12 – The Solar-Powered Grill (Burgers Anyone?)

Emily, Pierce, Carly, and Sam wanted to make burgers at the beach using a solar-powered electric grill. To get there they learned solar panel wiring, soldering, battery-pack design, grill wiring, 3D printing, and more.  Although they aren’t ready to BBQ just yet – you can learn more about their journey from the photo book they created chronicling their efforts.  Their book, as well as several prototypes and other artifacts from the project, are displayed at the Bruce Museum in a fitting supplement to the museum’s Electricity exhibit.


CEPS in action!

#13 – The Battery Board (Patent Pending)

James and Joey melded their passion for skateboarding with practicality, completely redesigning a standard skateboard to harness the energy of the rotation of the wheels to charge a rechargeable battery, which is then wired to a USB port so that you can plug in and charge your cell phone or Jambox speaker.

#14 – The Solar-Powered Raspberry Pi

Anselmo, Richie, and Owen brought together their diverse talents in technology, coding, and building to craft a portable solar-charging station for a Raspberry Pi.  Now, this small portable coding platform is even easier to use!!  Check out their Reddit post that includes detailed instructions for how you can make your own, including a complete parts list and a downloadable STL file for their 3D printed battery holster.  The team then exhibited their work to a Greenwich High School coding class.


Solar-powered Raspberry Pi