Team 33968 Forces of the Galaxy - Presents their FLL Project on Harnessing Solar Energy at the McMillan Space Centre
Lulu (Gr 9)
Soon after the North Surrey Regionals Competition, our team presented our project to the public at the McMillan Space Centre. Sharing our ideas with the public was not only part of the criteria of the project, but also a good way to make sure things made sense to people who were not scientists, astronomers, or engineers.
The guidelines for an FLL project are as follows: 1) find a problem within a specific area of study; 2) identify existing solutions to the problem and if they can be improved upon; 3) creating your own innovative solution or an improvement to an existing solution; 4) ask an expert if your solution is viable; 5) share your solution and problem with the general public.
FINDING a problem:
For our project, the problem we chose to solve was that most spacecrafts (including the ISS) are powered by solar panels, which is an efficient and cheap way to power the crafts, except for when traveling long distances. Any solar powered spacecrafts that attempt to go beyond Jupiter and Saturn (AKA past the “edge of sunshine”) would lose power because at that point the spacecraft is too far away from the sun. This makes any long distance travel to the far reaches of our solar system (when specifically using a large spacecraft, such as one to carry humans) very difficult.
There are no existing solutions to this problem at the moment, but some ideas have been in development at NASA. Two of these are:
PROPOSING an alternative:
The innovative solution we came up with, is to have a series of paired mirrors orbiting the earth so that they can reflect the sun’s light in a mostly concentrated beam towards any spacecraft in need. There would be multiple sets of mirrors orbiting the earth so that any spacecraft no matter on what side of the earth, can be reached by the beam. The mirrors would be controllable from N.A.S.A. via satellite or from the ISS so that they could be adjusted to stay in orbit.
We reached out to a former NASA astrobiologist, Carl Pilcher. From our conversation we understood that, since the mirrors for our idea should be comparable in size to the solar panels on the ISS to collect the same amount of energy, our idea was in fact feasible. He alerted us to a potential problem regarding the spacecraft’s heating and telecom systems, which would require more power than on the ISS due to the greater distance from Earth. If this problem is overcome, our idea is worth pursuing further.
SHARING with our community:
Our experience at the McMillan Space Centre was very beneficial, and by presenting we learned what things to modify or look for. As we spoke to the people that came up to our booth, we learned how to simplify and explain the project better, what things we should look deeper into, and some even suggested alternative uses for our solution that we never thought of, outside of the intended purpose.
At the Regional Tournament on Dec 2, 2018, we received the Project Award, which came as an exciting surprise. Although we did not know what to expect, it was very satisfying to know we had done a good job and our effort was recognized.
About our team:
We are FIRST LEGO League Team # 33968, a.k.a. Forces of the Galaxy from Vancouver and Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. We will be representing BC Canada at the FLL Championships in Houston, TX in April 2019 - https://www.firstchampionship.org/houston
This Isn't a Robot
Wondering what we mean when we say FIRST is #morethanrobots? Watch this video (courtesy of RadicalMedia)
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