ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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Solar-powered sun teaches kids about energy

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Whitney Bopp and Marko Cruz with children at the playground outside Wallace Hall (Photograph courtesy of the ECE students on the team)

Whitney Bopp and Marko Cruz demonstrate a solar-powered “sun” built to teach young children about solar energy.

For their project in Senior Design in Power Engineering, a group of ECE students designed and built a solar-powered sun for a preschool program — and used it as an educational tool to teach four-year-olds about solar energy in the process. Whitney Bopp, Marko Cruz, and Christa Hixson worked with Virginia Tech’s Child Development Center for Learning and Research to build a solar-powered unit for a playground outside Wallace Hall.

The ECE students built the solar-powered “sun” to help teach the young children how they can gather energy from the sun and put it to good use, how weather affects the amount of energy collected from solar panel, how light energy is transformed into electricity, and how other forms of energy are converted into electricity.

“Sunny” is 36 inches high and sports LED facial features. A sound module causes LED strips on the rays to blink when it senses sound or vibrations. Two solar panels generate the power for the demonstration.