Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

David Hodgson




renewable energy, solar cells, solar energy, thermal dynamics


Due to the current energy crisis, there are a large number of opportunities in the applications of renewable energy technologies. Specifically, my partner and I have explored those associated with a solar thermal collection dish. The sun, being a virtually limitless supply of energy, ought to be used to its fullest potential. This technology is designed to do just that. Using a concave reflective surface, the sun’s thermal energy is concentrated to a central location where it is then collected by a working fluid. This type of approach achieves very high temperatures and maximizes the effectiveness of the thermal energy collection process. In order for the dish to efficiently capture the sun’s thermal energy, a motorized solar tracking system first needed be implemented. Using photovoltaic sensors, one linear actuator, and one small gear-head motor, I was able to create a dual-axis system capable of tracking the sun’s movement in a smooth, controlled manner. The supporting structure itself is constructed from T-Slotted framing materials and rests atop a rolling cart for mobility. All phases of constructing and calibrating the system were completed by March 16th, 2012. Further system improvements and data collection exercises are now being explored by faculty and students.