College - Author 1

College of Engineering

Department - Author 1

Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BS in Industrial Engineering

College - Author 2

College of Engineering

Department - Author 2

Electrical Engineering Department

Degree - Author 2

BS in Electrical Engineering

College - Author 3

College of Engineering

Department - Author 3

General Engineering Department

Degree - Author 3

BS in General Engineering

College - Author 4

College of Engineering

Department - Author 4

Mechanical Engineering Department

Degree - Author 4

BS in Mechanical Engineering



Primary Advisor

Jim Widmann, College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Department

Additional Advisors

Dale Dolan, College of Engineering, Electrical Engineering Department


Team SunSation is an interdisciplinary senior design project group that was tasked with developing a semi-permanent seating area for Cal Poly's electrical engineering courtyard. The EE courtyard is populated with plastic folding tables and chairs that are slowly falling apart. Dale Dolan, the head of the EE department, requested that a table design be developed that incorporates the use of solar panels. The addition of the solar panels to the table would help promote clean renewable energy as well as provide shade to those sitting in the courtyard.

The solution that SunSation arrived at is broken up into mechanical/structural, electrical, and software subsystems. The table is made up of a steel frame with concrete benches and tabletop. At the bottom of the table frame there are steel c-channels that allow the table to be moved with a pallet jack. The table utilizes a single-axis solar tracking system with two solar panels donated by the EE department. A 10 ft. steel tube column stands at the center of the table and supports the solar panels. The solar panels sit at 30° from the horizontal at the top of the column. A linear actuator is attached to the solar panels and center column of the table and is used to rotate the panels ± 30° from their neutral position.

In addition to solar tracking, the table also boasts features such as LED lighting, USB charging, and data collection. All these features are controlled by a Raspberry Pi that lives in the waterproof box that houses the table's electronics. The table lights are operated using a button on the table and are set to turn off after one hour of use. The solar tracking works off a real-time clock in conjunction with a dataset on sunrise and sunset times each day at the product’s coordinate location. The table also includes a QR code that directs users to a website that shows data analytics from solar collection and consumption, as well as information on the project itself.

Manufacturing of the table was a substantial part of the project. The manufacturing process consisted of cutting and welding the table frame, mixing concrete, and assembling hardware for the solar tracking system. The team completed manufacturing and conducted testing on the table in the EE courtyard to ensure that all design engineering specifications were met. Some issues such as Wi-Fi connectivity, solar tracking software bugs, and motor controller hardware failure were discovered during this testing process. After resolving the discovered issues, the final assembly of the table was completed. The final product is now in the EE courtyard, and it has seen immediate use by students that study in the area.