Thursday, December 4, 2014

This is it!

This has been an incredibly busy week for S-STEM.  Making final touches on my project for the semester, finishing my research paper, and rushing to get my powerpoint done for an early presentation this morning has made for a challenging week.  Anyways, last night my team and I finished applying the Mylar sheeting to the parabolic concentrator.  It was too cloudy yesterday to determine any sort of efficiency that our parabolic concentrator has.  We will be investigating this more tomorrow, depending on the condition of the sky.  Steam generation will also be the goal for tomorrow's efforts.

This afternoon was the first round of powerpoint presentations.  It was great seeing what Matt Hill as been up to all semester, as well as a presentation from one of the new guys and his determining of an unknown bacteria.

This will be my last semester in S-STEM, I will still continue to blog about my parabolic concentrator next semester.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Finals, Papers, and Sunshine OH MY!

The final sprint to the end of the semester has begun.  With only a couple weeks of classes left, I am somewhat relieved, while being simultaneously overwhelmed by the amount of work that is piling up.  I have spent the majority of my efforts this week preparing my research paper for S-STEM, and hopefully I will have the paper and the power point done this weekend.  This week we finished the parabolic trough...finally.  Mylar sheeting has been attached to the frame and we are on course for steam generation for the latter part of next week.

Below are a few photos of the parabolic trough, before attaching the Mylar sheeting to the trough.  The process involved with attaching the takes a few days to complete.  Cleaning the sheet metal with acetone was step one, followed by laying down a layer of primer on the sheet metal.  After the primer dries, it is then wet sanded and another coat of primer is applied to the sheet metal.  After a final sanding, the Mylar sheeting can be applied using glue, and a careful hand when applying the Mylar, as it can dull and scratch quite easily.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


This week was another round of exams making life more difficult than usual, but all in all I think everything went pretty well.  I aced my Differential Equations exam and feel fairly confident about my Calc 3 and Physics exams as well.  In regard to my project, I got to use a new piece of equipment called a shearer.  Basically it cuts large sheets of metal into smaller ones.  The sheets of metal cut will make the parabola of our concentrator.  There are a few shots of the concentrator below with no sheet metal on it, as well as a piece of equipment called "Chicago".  Chicago is the shearer that cut our sheet metal like a hot knife on butter.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Lat Friday our special projects class at SMCC took a trip down to ASU to watch a presentation by the METS department.  METS stands for Motivated Engineering Transfer Students.  They gave us a very in depth look at how to transfer properly as an Engineering student to ASU.  Financial aid, scholarships, and application deadlines were all discussed.  If any of my fellow STEMmers are planning to transfer to Ira Fulton anytime soon, I would definitely suggest going to one of these presentations.

This was especially helpful to me, as I just changed my engineering major to Materials Science Engineering, and had a ton of questions about potential new course requirements.  The METS department put me in contact with an adviser for my new major , which has taken a lot of stress off of my shoulders for this next year.

For my project, my team has been incredibly busy and we will be spending the whole day tomorrow finishing our concentrator.  Pictures will be posted sometime this weekend.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

More Progress.

This seek we completed the frame for our parabolic concentrator.  Luckily one of the guys on our team is a welder, enabling us to make a metal sub-frame for concentrator.  To do this, we first drew the curve of our parabola on a table.  After the curve was drawn, we then used it as a template to bend the steel rods into place.  Ideally we should have used a tubing bender, but our resources were limited, and we did the best we could with what materials we had.  One of the pictures above shows the "tool" that we used to make our steel parabolas.  To enable adjustments, which will allow us to focus it, we welded little slots onto the steel parabolas.  We tapped the slots, and now using simple bolts we will be able to focus the direction of the parabola in twelve different places.  This weekend we will be fine tuning the parabola, and then we will start on the actual energy generation aspect of this project.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Let there be light.

I am starting to realize that with the loooonger than expected delay to get materials, my semester project is most likely going to span two semesters. That being said we got a solar concentrator up and running.  Before assembling our parabolic concentrator, we wanted to practice applying the mylar sheeting to something.  A Direct TV dish (DeathRay v.1) was used for a proof of concept.  I am really glad that we practiced on something small.  We practically did everything wrong the first time, which significantly decreased the efficiency of the mylar's refectivity. 

Even with the decreased efficiency, our concentrator was able to boil water and set a variety of things on fire.   Death Ray v.2 was assembled early this week.  More preparation and care was taken when applying the mylar to the satellite dish, and the concentrator's efficiency greatly increased.  Water boiled faster and harder, and lit objects on fire faster.  I say we are off to a good start.

Because slow motion makes everything better, here is a slow motion video of our concentrator starting to light a piece of wood on fire.  This was filmed using Death Ray v.1, so the wood never actually catches on fire, but it is still pretty cool.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Construction has begun!  This week a lot of progress has been made.  the frame of our parabolic concentrator has been built, and we started making the skeleton of our parabolic trough.  It feels so good that after weeks of purchase order mishaps, everything starts coming together so quickly.  Friday we will take a trip to the metal shop and start fabricating some of the larger pieces of steel that we will need for our concentrator, and maybe we can make a wood template for the parabola to ensure accuracy along the entire trough.  By next week we should be generating steam and (hopefully) powering a steam engine with previously mentioned steam!

Below are a few pictures taken in my friends garage of our activities this week.