Student-designed solar bus sign to grace campus

By Sarah Campos

Solar-powered bus sign

Engineering technology students designed a built a solar-powered bus sign for campus. Photo by Elena Fernandez.

Students in NMSU’s engineering technology and surveying engineering (ETSE) department are designing and building a solar bus sign that will be used by the Aggie Transit to display bus schedules and other messages.

The bus sign is a solar-powered lighted display box and programmable LED message board that is mounted on a pole. The system is equipped with a solar panel which provides power during the day and also charges a battery that will run the system at night and on cloudy days.  The LED message board can be programmed to display up to 250 messages at specified times of the day.

The system is designed and built by students in the ETSE department as part of the renewable energy technology minor.

“The ETSE department is very ‘hands-on’ and I wanted to provide an opportunity to demonstrate a bridge between the theory/research of energy technologies and the application of these technologies,” said Professor Thomas Jenkins who is the project leader and supervisor.

The proposed installation site is near the bus stop at the Frenger Food Court. The solar bus sign and the Frenger site were approved for installation by the Campus Planning Committee. The sign is a prototype that will be evaluated for acceptability, functionality, and esthetics with future campus installations possible.

Jenkins said NMSU facilities services have a work order to install the required concrete pad to support the pole-mounted system. The installation is expected to be complete mid-May.

“It brings great satisfaction to know that you are working on a project that everyone will get to see,” said Jonathan Trejo, an ETSE student who worked on the project. “It is also great to know that you are working with technologies that have the potential of being the next big thing.”

Trejo also added that he hopes this project will allow students to see that NMSU is dedicated to educating students about clean, renewable energy.

“The students took what they learned in the classroom and designed a highly visible, applied implementation of this technology that would fit into the NMSU ‘Year of Sustainability’ and NMSU’s support of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment,” said Jenkins. “We selected this project because it would be a way to let people on campus know about renewable technologies and the ways they can be used.”

Jenkins and his students are also using the project as a prototype for building solar-powered street signs or area lighting that the student chapter of Engineers without Borders might be able to utilize in Mexico, where they have already built a bridge and are planning future projects.

ETSE Staff Engineer Chris Wise worked with Jenkins in supervising and leading the project. Students who participated in the project include Jonathan Trejo, John Morrell, Nikki Mahon, Jharrod LaFon, and Matt Steele. The majority of the funding for this project was from a NASA Undergraduate Education Enhancement Program grant which is administrated through the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at NMSU.

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