New Mexico Tech Students Prepare Solar Trailer for School Visits
Oct. 19, 2022
SOCORRO, N.M. – Introducing young people to solar power and its possible uses is the aim of a trailer under construction on the campus of New Mexico Tech. Mechanical engineering students have begun work this semester on building out a solar-powered trailer so they can take it on the road to schools throughout the region as a mobile educational tool to inform students about the benefits of renewable energy.
The construction of SunChaser 2K22 trailer project started out with students from ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School in Albuquerque using their welding and carpentry skills to construct the tiny house on top of the flatbed trailer last school year. After being displayed at the American Solar Energy Society’s national conference at the University of New Mexico June 21 to 24, the trailer headed to Socorro for outfitting with a “smart system.”
Seven mechanical engineering students – Drew Raymond, Hector Grijalva, Kanisha Phillips, Logan Caspersen, Margarita Sandoval, Maria D’Orazio, and Octavio Lopez – are working with Dr. Ashok Ghosh, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and New Mexico Solar Energy Association (NMSEA) past president, and Gabriel Maestas, Graduate Student in Mechanical Engineering and NMSEA Board Member, on outfitting the trailer with renewable energy systems as part of an engineering design class this fall and in spring semester 2023.
The SunChaser 2K22, currently parked in a lot behind Tech’s Mineral Science and Engineering Complex (MSEC), now promotes many “smart system” features, including:
- Solar panel awnings – on two sides of the vehicle, the solar panels collect solar energy and feed it to the batteries.
- Batteries - The inverter converts DC power to AC electricity that can be used to power the outlets in the trailer, where a mini-fridge and other appliances can be plugged in. The charge controller evens out energy from the panels.
- Radiant heating - The floors are heated underneath with Warmboard-S technology, a hydronic radiant subfloor paneling system.
- Insulation - A window on the side of the trailer shows the insulation used to keep it warm as well as cool.
- Water tanks - The trailer will have three 15-gallon water tanks – for cold water, hot water,
and for greywater. The solar collector is used to heat the water. A sink, mini-fridge,
and microwave will be added in the mini-kitchen.
One team of students is working on the coding for the smart system, and another team is collaborating on the water system design. Students are learning communications and project management skills as they work together to complete tasks on the project’s timeline.
The project’s goal, according to Dr. Ghosh, is to complete work on the trailer and then take it to area high schools and other education institutions to provide information about solar and other types of renewable energy. Eventually, the SunChaser 2K22 will be housed at Explora Science Center in Albuquerque, where it will continue to be used to exhibit ways renewable energy can be used in homes and businesses.
“Renewable energy – that’s what it’s about,” said Margarita Sandoval, who said the tiny house trailer has a lot of capacity for renewable energy storage. “It’s a mobile classroom.”
Dr. Ghosh said that the project is funded with a $5,000 grant from a New Mexico Tech
donor and an additional $5,000 in donations are being sought to cover costs. To donate,
visit the mechanical engineering donation page: