Meet a Lucerna Author: Grace Reesman

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project initially was about designing and implementing a sun-tracking solar panel system. I wanted to make a solar panel system that would “follow” the sun throughout the day and therefore be at a more effective angle to collect energy. To do this, I used a light dependent resistor (LDR) and a servo motor. An LDR is a resistor that is inversely proportional to incident light intensity. The motor moved the panel from 0 to 180 degrees every 15 minutes, and voltage values were taken at each degree and stored in an array. The maximum voltage in the array, and the associated position, was found using a program in Arduino (using C++). The servo motor adjusted the solar panel to the position at which the voltage was at a maximum. As the project progressed, however, certain problems arose with saturation of the photocell. In response, I examined the effects of using a filter over the LDR in this system.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I was interested in this topic because it seemed like a simple way to increase solar panel efficiency. Renewable energy sources are underused, and I think a way to make them more appealing is to increase their efficiency.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The challenges of this project were mainly in the coding and building of the system. I had never written code in C++ before, used an Arduino, or built a circuit of this magnitude. Hence, the whole process was a learning experience for me, which I viewed as a major benefit.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

My advice for students is to get involved in doing research that you enjoy, take really good notes (even on things you are sure you’ll remember), and don’t leave all of your writing for the end.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I am currently a Mathematics and Physics double major. I am also currently enrolled in an accelerated Mathematics degree program which will allow me to obtain a master’s degree two semesters after graduating with my bachelor’s degrees. Then I plan to attend graduate school and obtain a Ph.D. in Physics. I aspire to do research in theoretical physics.