Students in the College of Engineering don’t wait long to begin projects that take them beyond equations and theory and head them toward exciting careers. As part of the college’s four-year design program and on the heels of the annual October Solar Oven Throw Down, the November Solar Track Meet gives first-year students even more hands-on experience.
With the support of the Salt River Project utility company, the college established the now expanded Solar Track Meet in 2022 for the Craig M. Berge Engineering Design Program. As soon as teams finish building solar ovens from common materials for the Solar Oven Throw Down, those teams move on to designing and building autonomous trackers that follow the sun’s movements to maximize collection of solar energy. Each student becomes certified in 3D printing, and every tracker includes at least one 3D-printed part.
University of Arizona mechanical engineering alum Mary Faulk, SRP’s director of integrated system planning and support, finds it a privilege to mentor students and visit campus for the design events. The learning goes both ways, she said.
“I really enjoy hearing the creative ways that students troubleshoot, navigate teamwork challenges, and work through resource and time constraints,” said Faulk, stressing the underlying importance of effective communication. “We actively demonstrate this in our daily work at SRP. Some examples would be proposing a new project to obtain funding, sharing a process improvement with another department to improve existing work, or explaining energy efficiency and cost-saving programs to our customers.”