High School students at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS) are building their own solar panel kits.
Davis Mounger, a Biology, Chemistry, and Energy Systems teacher at CSAS, developed the state-approved curriculum to teach students the mechanics of solar panel kits – from design of residential solar panels, commercial solar panels, construction, and installation. The Energy Systems class also functions as dual enrollment with Chattanooga State Community College, where it satisfies the requirements of Electrical Engineering 241 (Solar Installation). It also draws from elements of Electrical Engineering 110 (Circuits I). The students earn both high school and college credit.
Panel construction consists of soldering solar cells, fitting on tempered glass, encapsulation, framing, and providing a fuse block and outlet lead. The panel constructed with the most efficiency was made over about 6 hours.
This academic year, Mr. Mounger expanded the students’ curriculum by having the students design, cut, weld, and install the mounting system for their solar array. They also did the grid-tie work. As part of the element of circuit theory in the class, the students are tasked with making their own voltage regulators (commonly called charge controllers) for a standalone solar panel system.
Their current solar array produces 2,445 watts. The students installed nine commercial solar panels at 250 watts apiece. They have successfully made three solar panels at 65 watts apiece. The 9 panel/2250 watt array is grid tied and the 3 panel/195 watt array of student-made panels will power a stand-alone system for scientific monitoring equipment.