Sunshine On a Solar Panel Makes Everybody Happy

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left: Chris Trennepohl, Saleh Mohammed, Phillip Wall
lower: Learnmore Shenje, Fritz Healy, Ben Gauthier
right: Tim Gfroerer, Stephen Keller, Jessie Barrick
(photo Bill Giduz, clickable)

Toodling along at the Davidson Farmer’s Market on Saturday with my colorfully correct, reusable spunbond polyester shopping bags probably made out of old soda bottles and now filled with free-range chicken (tastes like childhood Sundays!) and winter kale (tastes like it’s good for you!), I spied Tim Gfroerer, F.O.D., Ph.D. (friend of Dodger, professor of physics).

Tim was standing with some students next to the college’s solar panel cart. The cart was a collaboration last year between Southern Energy Management, Physical Plant, and three students, Hunter Strader ’12, Hartman Saylor ’15, and Claire Naisby ’12, to create something useful to tell the story of the Baker Sports Complex Solar Installation and explain how solar works.

Yours truly, as seen by the infrared camera used to study temperature variations on the solar panel.

The cart came about while Gfroerer was on sabbatical, but when he got wind of it at the beginning of this semester, it sparked ideas for his electronics class. He applied for a curriculum development grant from the Center for Civic Engagement, and presto, not only did his electronics students get to study current, voltage, and thermal imaging with the cart, they’re getting to share what they’ve learned at the farmer’s market and beyond. For instance, Gfroerer himself is going to present a poster on the cart at a physics teacher meeting in New Orleans over winter break.

“We used the heck out of it,” he said of the cart. “We got our money’s worth out of that thing. It turned out to be the perfect tool for studying solar.”

For more information on the cart, email Claire Naisby at clnaisby [at] davidson.edu.

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