Solar Tracker Electronics Demo–Done (kinda)

We’ve been working on a solar tracker demo for the Parallax Robotics Expo.  As the expo starts today, we needed to get something finished yesterday.  We did get something finished.

It is a first pass demo to get our feet wet in this area.  We needed to hone-in our mechanical design abilities (we will have a few blog posts on that coming up) and I needed to use with the Synaptron Micro in  a full-sized demo.  I was able to get the previous rat’s nest prototype into an enclosure with a rudimentary user interface.   There were some last minute snafus – there always are – made tIMG_0407he more nerve-wracking because of the deadline pressure.  However, we now have a functioning demo, that expo guests can “drive”.

For the demo, you can drive the rotation and the lift of the solar panels in either analog mode (controlled directly with the Synaptron micros) or in serial mode (communication coming from an Arduino Uno).  The user is able to use the analog mode with the two silver-dialed potentiometers shown on the box.  For serial mode, the keypad is used.  The LCD and and LED combinations show the user what mode and what condition the solar panel is in.  All in all a pretty straight-forward approach to show-casing the Synaptron Micro’s capabilities.

So why is the demo “kinda” done?  As mentioned previously, this was just to get our feet wet.  Now that we see it can be done, we want to kick the demo up a notch.   Already we know that we want:

  • – A custom PCB
  • – A better case to display the Synaptron Micros while in operation
  • – An integrated power supply
  • – Better connections to the two motors
  • – Actual solar tracking (by date, location, and sensors)
  • – Absolute position tracking for the rotation, not just relative
  • – A bigger/better display to show off what is actually happening
  • – Professional looking graphics

We will also get some good feedback from the attendees of the the expo, so we should be able to add to the starter list.  Keep an eye out for more changes down the road.  See you at the expo.

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