Development of In-System Tests for a Solar Sculpture

Samuel Catania, “Development of In-System Tests for a Solar Sculpture”
Mentor: Brian Armstrong, Electrical Engineering
Poster #36

The ever evolving pallet of artistic expression is fueled by scientific advancement. This Solar Sculpture conflates two seemingly different fields of study to bring a unique visual display. Along the process, we’ve managed to work with an artist, Richard Taylor, who is designing and manufacturing the Solar Sculpture. The idea is that the structure is free standing and runs on its’ own power source and performs automatic visual light displays that react depending on the light levels in the day. The research conducted had the goal to bring concept to reality. The means of process are that of developing documentation on what the sculpture requires to function, a rigorous analysis and selection of components to predict longevity, and realizing a working model with several testing features to ensure stability. My research conducted, with guidance from Dr. Brian Armstrong, has started from the basic testing of different modules utilizing the PIC microcontrollers and a custom designed system that has a Main Controller Board and LED Driver Boards. Some testing modules are the regulation of charging from a photo-voltaic solar panel, to monitoring exterior light levels, to writing/reading data stored on a 64-Mbyte external flash IC, as well as several others. From there, we discovered some potential system failure points by performing a FIT Analysis. We were able to find suitable replacements to bring the service life of the Solar Sculpture to ~50 years. Through this process, I have learned much about the process of bringing a product concept to reality, the inner workings on embedded system development, as well as explore an extensive robust analysis of the system as a whole.