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Engineering students build solar charging station for UIC’s Office of Sustainability

UIC chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World

A team of students from the UIC chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World designed and built a solar charging station for Gemma, an electric vehicle used by the UIC Office of Sustainability.

Gemma makes deliveries for the Food Recovery Network, which addresses hunger and food waste. With Gemma, the network recovers perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown out and donates it to partner shelters throughout Chicago.

The student team consisted of Joe Downie, Kevin Georgiev, Matt Steinwart, all of mechanical engineering, and Kemuel Roberts, of biomedical engineering.

The Office of Sustainability proposed the project to the students when the organization was founded in the fall of 2020, and provided funding for it. Unfortunately, the work hit a standstill when campus facilities were closed due to COVID-19.

“Another issue was supply chain issues during COVID. We waited three months for a trailer to come in that we ordered. We canceled the order and transitioned to a stationary system,” Downie said.

Undeterred, the students regrouped and devised a plan to work online and from home as much as they could. When facilities reopened, the team went to work in the Makerspace cutting materials, then welded them in the machine shop.

“To charge Gemma off grid, we implemented a 300-watt solar panel. The solar panel charges a battery that is used to charge Gemma at night,” Downie said. “The charge station implements manual solar tracking, and it has 12 settings so that it is angled to be most efficient for each month.”

The team is still considering the possibility of transitioning the station on to a trailer for mobile use.

Engineers for a Sustainable World is a student organization in the College of Engineering focused on creating new technology while being environmentally conscious.