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Deployment mechanism for next-generation solar panels on telecommunication towers




6: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Faculty Supervisor:

Vladimir Bulovic

Faculty email:


Apply by:

Rolling until filled (ideally by Feb 7th, 2020)


Anurag Panda: apanda@mit.edu

Project Description

We are looking for a highly motivated master or senior undergraduate student to develop an automated deployment mechanism for lightweight solar cells on telecommunication towers. A first version of the prototype is already developed, and based on the feedback from telecommunication tower builders, a basic CAD model of the second version has also been developed. The student is expected to work independently to drive the design and prototyping work to build a deployable prototype by the end of the upcoming summer. The student will be responsible for finalizing the parts selection, for making sure all the mechanical and electrical components work well together, for ensuring the final design can withstand rugged outdoor use. In its final form, the prototype should be able to retract the solar panels with changes in wind conditions in a reliable manner, clean the panels during retraction, and monitor the panel power output. The student will be a member of the GridEdge Solar Research program, (https://gridedgesolar.org/) an interdisciplinary team of electrical engineers, chemists, and materials scientists. The team is working toward designing, manufacturing and piloting of lightweight and flexible solar cells to increase energy access for low-income communities in emerging economies. Powering telecommunication towers using solar energy has the potential to reduce the barriers to telecommunication tower installations in remote communities and provide much needed information services.


Since the student is expected to work independently on the project, reasonable amount of previous design and prototyping experience is required. The following skills will be helpful: Product design, machining and manufacturing, interfacing motorized systems and sensors, basic Arduino programming