# Solar Cybertech: A Competition of Digitally Controlled Vehicles Poweredby Solar Panels

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3 120 ELECTRONICS, VOL. 17, NO. 2, DECEMBER 2013 dc converter operation, as it is capable of producing higher and lower output voltages than the input voltage. Forthe firstedition, the organization made the design of the converter as well as the PCB, shown in Figure 6, for the physical implementation as well as a tutorial for the soldering and assembly of the components in the PCB. Fig. 6. PCB of the Flyback converter used in the first edition ofsolar Cybertech. C. Converter control The control of the dc-dc converter is of essential importance for the complete system due the following reasons: It has to find the peak power point of the solar panel. It adjusts the energy from the solar panel towards the dc motor of the car. For the practical implementation it has been chosen a digital control implemented using a PIC18F442. The board with the microcontroller had been previously developed and given to the students by the Cybertech organizers. while the second one is for voltages lower than V MMPT (on the left of the maximum power point). In each new working point it is necessary to measure the power and compare it with the previous measurement and decide if the panel voltage should be increased or decreased taking into account if the power has decreased or increased. Figure 8 illustrates the basic idea of the algorithm. The procedure is the following: after each measurement the voltage and current measurement arestored, the duty cycle of the flyback converter is incrementally changed and the new output power is compared with the previous measurement. If the output power has increased and the working point is in the second zone (voltages higher than the V MMPT, from x n to x n-1 in Figure 8) it is necessary to increase the duty cycle. Similarly, if the working point is in the first zone, (from X1 to X2 in Figure 8), the duty cycle has to be decreased. In order to know in which part of the power curve we are, so we can define the sign of the duty cycle increment, the voltage measurement has to be saved together with its corresponding output power. If this information is not saved, the duty cycle will saturate in its minimum or maximum value and the output power will fall to zero. The PWM signal that comes from the control board is sent to a driver which generates the proper control signals for the MOSFET of the flyback converter. Fig. 8. V-P curve of a solar panel. MPPT algorithm representation. Fig. 7. Control PCB (left) and Flyback converter (right)used in the first edition of Solar Cybertech. In order to implement the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) algorithm, it is necessary to measure two parameters, the input current and voltage. For the voltage measurement, a simple voltage divider is used, while the current is measured using a commercial current sensor. The algorithm consists of constantly search the MMP by doing small incremental changes on the duty cycle. With these changes the algorithm is able to move the operation point along the power curve of the solar panel, having in mind two different zones. The first zone is for voltages higher than the V MPPT (on the right side from the maximum power point), D. DC motor The dc motor receives the controlled power from the dc-dc converter and transmits it to the vehicle wheels through a set of gears. These gears decrease the nominal speed of the dc motor (3000 rpm) increasing the torque which is necessary for the vehicle to drive up the slope in one part of the test circuit. The student teams were not limited with the number of dc motors. Each team decides for itself which dc motor will use and how will it connect to the vehicle. In the first edition of the competition, there were 14 registered teams (approximately 70 students) and each constructed vehicle was able to complete the test circuit. Two teams were able to complete the test circuit including the shadowed part of the circuit as well. One team implemented a system and an algorithm for the solar panel orientation so that it always receives the maximal solar panel in each part of the test circuit. This team won the award for the best innovation given by the organization committee of the competition.

5 122 ELECTRONICS, VOL. 17, NO. 2, DECEMBER 2013 Roberto Gutierrez González Iván Arianes Ortiz Alejandro Rodríguez Anguita Pilar Montero Morales Beatriz Tato Eirín Pablo López Cenamor Fig. 11. Photograph of the Solar Cybertech competition. All the information regarding the Cybertech competition can be found at the following link: V. TEACHING EXPERIENCE The experience obtained during the Solar Cybertech competition was very positive, due to the high motivation level of the participating students and their dedication. The students showed great interest in the buyinga solar panel in order to enhance their solar vehicle in their spare time. This competition was made as a subject, serving to the students as an introduction to electronics, developing a practical application. Additionally, they obtained some basic knowledge regarding solar energy, switching power supplies, programming and usage of microprocessors. Finally, they had to deal with all the problems that can occur during the implementation of a complete system (from the control algorithm to the mechanical adjustment of the implemented vehicle). Generally, the student teams were composed from the students who are specialized in electronics and automatics. It was common to find teams composed from the students from different areas of specialization, which in a natural way share the tasks. At the same time, this subject was very attractive for the students from the first years of studies in order to choose their area of specialization. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Authors want to thank the following Supervisors for their contribution and dedication to Solar Cybertech: María Santos Sánchez Eduardo Morales Cas Fig. 12. Library developed for Arduino platform in order to obtain a high frequency PWM signal. REFERENCES [1] Tutorials written for the students: [2] Arduino website: [3] Datasheet of ATmega168.

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