Robotics Technology
Pitches with Prototypes: Solar Tracker


Next in our run-up coverage of MAKE’s 2013 Hardware Innovation Workshop is Jay Doscher’s solar tracking robot. His project was one of many submitted to the pitches with prototypes contest. To get the most efficient use of solar electric energy, you must keep your solar panel pointed at the sun. Manually moving the solar panel is impractical. An automated solution may be beyond the reach of many green energy enthusiasts or anyone who just wants to keep the lights on without developing robotics expertise.

Hoping to fill that need Jay’s GPS-steered solution is portable and could be used for emergencies, camping, or any time off-grid power is needed.

Solar Tracking Robot

A 50 Watt solar panel mounted statically in southern California might provide about 28 Watts of usable output. With tracking you may get closer to 40 Watts. Jay says that for most of North America, you can gain about 30 percent efficiency by keeping your solar panel pointed at the sun. People living in high latitude areas like Alaska could possibly see 80 to 90 percent gains over the course of a year.

Jay and other inventors, artists and entrepreneurs will be presenting their ideas at MAKE’s Hardware Innovation Workshop this May 14th and 15th. They submitted proposals of their prototypes for the chance to pitch to an audience of industry experts. Entrants hope to get feedback on their product’s marketability, producibility, and the chance to win a slot at the Maker Faire Innovation Stage the following weekend to show their stuff to a wider audience.

Although Jay says his hardware and software design is open source, not everyone wants to do it themselves. With natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy in recent memory, could this idea be commercially viable? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Are you an potential investor or do you have your own idea you want to bring to market? Register to attend the Hardware Innovation Workshop and see what other innovators and successful entrepreneurs have to share.

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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