Current Projects

Solar Refrigeration System: A partnership with Grow Food Northampton

Grow Food Northampton is a local organization that facilitates several community gardens and small community farms. In addition to presenting educational opportunities and providing low-cost farm shares, Grow Food Northampton gives fresh produce to nearby soup kitchens and food pantries. Part of their mission is to increase food access for low-income community members. However, currently, they have a problem with food storage. Their partner organizations are open only on certain days and since their gardens are volunteer-run, the food cannot be delivered on the same day of harvest. Without a cool place to store the produce, the food rots before they can deliver most of the time. They asked us if we could design a stand-alone solar powered refrigeration system to store food for longer periods of time.

Currently, Grow Food Northampton is in the process of building a small refrigerated trailer using a modified air conditioner and a U-Haul type trailer. However, they cannot implement this solution due to not having access to electricity on their site. Ideally we would be able to modify this system to work with a small photovoltaic (solar) system so that the refrigerator could be onsite.

Our preliminary design involves mounting photovoltaic panels either on the roof of the cooling trailer or to a south-facing shed which Grow Food Northampton is building. Regardless the panels will be powering a window AC unit mounted in the side of the trailer or shed. The AC unit will be modified with a device called a CoolBot which bypasses the cooling limit on the air conditioner. The solar panels will need to produce about 15,000 BTUs (approximately 4.5KWh) of energy to power the refrigeration system. Additionally, we will need a battery in order to allow the system to function at night as well as during the day.

 How Does Electricity Move? Circuits Learning and Process with the Campus School

We are currently working on four lesson plans to be taught at the Campus School, where we’ll be instructing them on circuits and developing their thought processes using Snap Circuits. These lessons are predicted to be held in middle-late February, depending on when we’ll be able to confirm and get the lessons approved.

Solar Charging Station

Last year we built a solar charging station and briefly installed it at one of the outdoor tables outside the campus center. Just like with all prototypes, we encountered some problems. The biggest of which was that the box that encased the electronics was not weatherproof. This semester we will be making a weatherproof box for the electronics and trying to get permission from Smith to re-install the charging station outside the Campus Center.

Bike Dynamo

Last year we worked on creating a phone charger on a bike using a bike dynamo. We put together a circuit board, attached the bike dynamo to it, and connected the whole circuit to the bike. We were able to get some electricity flowing through the circuit, but after a while we weren’t getting any readings. Unfortunately it seemed that one of our circuit pieces was incorrect, so we’ll be figuring out the correct remaining piece to finish the project.


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