EPICS-in-IEEE Initiative: Solar Car wins SAIEE National Award

UCT Mechatronics Engineering student came out tops at the annual SAIEE National Student Project Competition.

 

UCT Mechatronics Engineering student Kai Goodall came out tops at the annual SAIEE National Student Project Competition. Each year, final-year students of electrical,mechatronics, electronic and computer engineering at South African academic universitiesand universities of technology are required to complete an intensive design project. The best student projects are nominated by the institutions to compete in the annual South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) National Student Project Competition. Kai Goodall, a final year Mechatronics Engineering student, supervised by Dr David Oyedokun, was nominated to represent UCT at the competition. Kai’s project, initially designed for EPICS- in-IEEE high school outreach initiatives, was to design a Solar Car – inspired by the growing need to enhance technology associated to renewable sources of energy. The objective of the outreach initiative was to develop and nurture pre-university students’ interest in electrical engineering - with the hope that they will pursue electrical engineering at university level. Hence the project was nominated for its twin-purpose, cutting edge educational potential.

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UCT has a long heritage in outreach activities in partnership with IEEE South Africa, with the goal of inspiring High School learners through various educational impact projects, examples of an previous outreach project facilitated by UCT and IEEE South Africa, can be seen here: (https://site.ieee.org/pes-enews/2018/08/27/building-long-lasting-relatio...). Therefore in order to boost the educational impact of this outreach led by UCT and the IEEE, Kai Goodall developed a remote-controlled solar car, equipped with an external solar panel, that through a dual-axis dynamic functionality system could track sunlight both horizontally and vertically to attract the optimal position of the sun for maximum solar energy, thus powering the car without disrupting its course. The car can also conduct manoeuvres autonomously by detecting and avoiding obstacles, using the concept of “sense, think and act” inherent in engineering. The Solar RC car system uses applied engineering concepts and demonstrates the fundamentals of electrical engineering through its two main modules, namely the Dual-Axis Solar Tracker module and the RC Car module, which will ensure high school learners interact and engage with the solar RC car. The national competition was held in Potchefstroom on 21 November 2019. Kai Goodall competed against seven students from six universities across South Africa and walked away with first place. In his personal experience at the national competition, Kai Goodall mentioned that: “The competition was strong with innovative projects from all universities in South Africa and I am excited to inspire the future generations of South African electrical engineering students through my Solar Car project”. The adjudicators noted, as the reasons for the award, the interplay between engineering fields (mechatronics, electrical and mechanical) necessary in the concept generation as well as its educational potential. But perhaps most prominent was the symbiosis between the technology designed and the urgent need for South Africa to pursue innovation in the area of renewable resources due to the current energy crisis at Eskom remains critical and the need to combat the climate emergency through technological enhancements in the field of renewable energy. After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement at the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 13 February 2020 that the generation market in energy production will be opened up to Independent Power Producers (IPPs), especially in the field of renewable energy, initiatives such as this may finally stand to yield benefit on a national scale.

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