After a recent team-bonding session, the team is on their game, busy learning new things and progressing through the season. With upwards of 40 students interested in our team, we set up mentoring sessions to teach every aspect of the team. Mentoring the youth is a crucial aspect of our team and utmost priority. “The mentorship program allows me to easily pass my knowledge to new members, which is critical for the team in the future,” says Timothy Jou (10).
Dylan Berger (11), and Hudson Hall (9) are watching Riley Wiggen (9) practice soldering on a wire while Teddie Blahous (12) is supervising.
In my case, I have been teaching the new members the fundamentals of soldering and how we plan on applying that knowledge to building our solar panels for the up-and-coming improved solar car. With the challenge we encountered in Texas with our solar panels not producing the expected output due to bad connections, we have taken the liberty of soldering our own solar panels. This effort requires skill and experience, which is why this has been a painstaking but necessary process. Each solar cell requires to be a certain distance apart from each other (about a millimeter) and must be soldered together with a dog bone connector. We have been experimenting with a soldering syringe that automatically spits out controlled amounts of solder paste, and how to correctly solder it without shorting the circuits. In order to improve our understanding of how to properly solder the solar cells, we recently had a meeting with an engineer at SunPower— a company that specializes in solar power generation and energy storage. She guided us through how to apply the right amount of heat to the solder paste, line up the cells with the connectors, and how to ensure that the connectors will successfully be attached during the lamination process. Given the finite resources of solar cells available, we have been carefully practicing on a few cells and mastering those before moving on. We appreciate SunPower for providing us with practice solar cells.
Sukhman Khangura (9) is soldering two solar cells together.
Moving forward, we plan to experiment with tools and equipment such as a 5 x 5 jig and a more efficient soldering syringe in order to prepare for the big project of putting together the entire solar panel. I am happy to see that new members are excited to learn more about solar panels and the general wave of excitement and enthusiasm to research, build, design. Teddie Blahous (12) summarized his mentorship experience thus far this year. “Throughout my teaching so far, I have seen lots of improvements among the new members, not only soldering solar panels but learning how to use hands-on shop skills including welding, grinding, cutting, et cetera. This amount of engagement with the new members is very promising because these shop skills are extremely versatile even beyond the solar car team and will help them in their future careers. Seeing this much interest within our team is important for the legacy of the solar car team.“ This impact the executive members leave is much bigger than us and we strive to create an inclusive STEM learning environment. We have a lot of work to do in the road ahead of us but we have a clear path we will remain focused on this journey.