UC San Diego Chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World Wins Solar Grant
March 08, 2011
Joseph Ocampo, a UC San Diego sophomore and a member of the campus chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), is leading a team of fellow ESW student volunteers that has won a $10,900 grant to develop a mobile solar-powered station. The team plans to use the grant from the national ESW organization to develop the “solar tree on wheels” that will be used to charge batteries in laptops, cell phones, campus electric utility vehicles and other devices.
“If we can develop a system that folds up and is easily transportable, it could be used to charge cell phones and provide power for medical purposes in underdeveloped parts of the world,” said Ocampo, a student in Thurgood Marshall College who also is a member of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). “The technology we develop could also be used in emergency situations in the field to charge battery-powered electronic devices or provide the power needed to refrigerate critical medical supplies.”
Ocampo submitted the proposal to the national ESW organization in January. ESW is a U.S.-based non-profit organization with a mission of mobilizing students and professionals through education, technical projects and collaborative action to impact local and global sustainability challenges.
In addition to the UC San Diego chapter of ESW, others to win grants as part of the ESW/SunEdison “Green Island Power Generation” project were ESW chapters at Stanford and the University of Iowa.
“With this grant, Joseph and the other students demonstrating solar technologies on campus will learn first-hand the advantages and challenges of solving real-world problems with renewable energy,” said Jan Kleissl, a professor of environmental engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering and one of Ocampo’s three professional advisors on the project. “I am excited that the Engineers for a Sustainable World chapter at UCSD will be able to make a highly visible contribution to what we call the ‘endgame’ of zero carbon emissions.”
The UC San Diego chapter of ESW is involved in several other unrelated projects, including one to teach students at the UCSD Preuss School how to compost, another to extract plant oil from coffee grounds as a source of bio-diesel, and yet another ambitious project to improve clean-water supplies, sanitation, irrigation, and hydro-electric power in rural villages in Thailand.
Ocampo graduated in 2009 from the Preuss School, which was jointly chartered by the San Diego Unified School District and UC San Diego as a public school for highly motivated students from low-income families whose parents or guardians are not college graduates. Ocampo had been a leader of the school’s Ecology Club, and on Fridays after finishing his classes at UC San Diego he returns to the Preuss School to continue working with the club.
Ocampo has recruited a talented team of students and professional experts to collaborate on the solar charging station. In addition to Ocampo, the UC San Diego students participating in the project include Hien Nguyen, Lauren Rueda, Peggy Ip and Pule Wang. The professional advisors are Kleissl and two members of the board of the San Diego Renewable Energy Society, Kurt Lund and Charlie Johnson. Ocampo also is forming a campus chapter of the American Solar Energy Society, whose members will be recruited to work on the project as well.
“To increase our chances of developing our prototype mobile solar charging station, we will be seeking additional financial support and in-kind donations of solar panels and other equipment,” said Ocampo. “Our first goal is to make a working prototype and later to make it more efficient by using the current produced by the solar panels to charge batteries directly without using an alternating-current rectifier.”
Ocampo is one of many students with multidisciplinary academic interests. He is interested in four areas of study – engineering, environmental studies, physics and psychology. The solar-tree-on-wheels project will involve skills in the four academic fields in an innovative approach that ultimately will help the campus lower its carbon footprint.
“I like physics, and the faculty advisor of the Ecology Club at the Preuss School encouraged me to pursue courses related to the environment, but I’m most interested in understanding people and how they can use technology to better meet their needs,” he said. “I like psychology, physics, environmentalism and engineering and now I’m thinking about that unlikely combination for a career.”
He said the project will provide a location of interest for students, faculty, visitors and the media, “all for the mission of sustainability and innovation."