2013-2015 solar lounge project


After some brainstorming, my Paideia students (from the previous cohort version of Paideia) came up with the idea of creating sustainable outdoor study spaces on campus. These students were Anne Bransford, Kaylyn Evans, Antonio Lopez, Mareah Lucio, Allyson Sekerke, Catie Willis, and Anna Zolten. We found a company that made a solar powered picnic table, and applied for an SU SEED grant to buy one set (which cost nearly $10,000). The SEED committee came back with a promise of $5000, but instead of buying it, we needed to make it. Unfortunately, our cohort consisted of humanities and social science majors, no engineering or physics majors. So instead of giving up, we contacted the physics department to see if any physics students were interested in the project. We also approached design and architecture students, and found Chandler Johnson, who developed a number of potential designs. Dr. Steve Alexander then found two engineering students to take on the challenge in their engineering class as a project, Amir Hessabi and Keeley Coburn. The team slimmed down the idea to a solar chair, which was attractive, ergonomic and portable. They designed, engineered and built the chair completely from scratch. The prototype can be seen outside the Admissions Building. Three more chairs were built in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015, and can currently be found by the fountain. 

This interdisciplinary effort brought together students, professors and staff from very different areas. It highlights the amazing work that students at Southwestern are capable of doing, the resources available at Southwestern for actualizing ideas (from internal grants available to supporting student creative work to faculty and staff supporting projects with mentoring to students volunteering many hours to help build the chairs).

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