Engineering students at Nimitz High School are putting their heads together to create a durable, sustainable solution to electricity droughts. The project began in the spring of 2020 with a group of six students working together to create a solar panel for the annual Technology Student Association competition. After sweeping the regional competition, the group was preparing to compete at the state level when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing the contest to be cancelled. 

Fast forward a year and seniors Victor Blanco, Edward Ortega and Stephanie Salas are reinventing the solar panel to be even more sustainable. Salas, who has worked on both versions of the solar panel, is proud of the extra work the current team has put forth.

“Before, it was just something we were working on for a competition. Now we’ve reached out to experts and done more research about the needs, and changed our design,” says Salas. 

To create an updated version of the solar panel, the new group reached out to solar power experts both locally and internationally to get industry advice. After personally reaching out to several professional organizations, Ortega finally heard back from a representative of the American Solar Energy Society.

The representative guided them to better understand the ins and outs of solar energy, and even connected them with engineers in Nigeria to help them better understand the solar-panel needs of those where electrical infrastructure and resources are limited.

In response to the guidance from these experts, the team created an entirely updated model using only resources that are easily accessible in other parts of the world.

“We had someone there telling us what was needed, because they were actually there and experienced,” says Salas. “Everything we have here is curated so that if anything went wrong on our part, it would be easily fixed there because they have the resources at their disposal.”

As the team nears the end of the project, they have been reflecting on the significant learning experiences this project has allowed them. 

“My favorite part was the challenge, learning and being taught the different parts that make up a solar panel, what is compatible with it and how electrical output works,” says Blanco.

The team will present their project virtually at the local Innovation Awards, where they will compete against 11 other semi-finalists from across the district. Winners will be announced in the coming weeks. 

2021 Semi-Finalists for the Technology Leadership Council Innovation Awards

  • Armando Hernandez, Jonathan Lara and Jose Sanchez – Nimitz High School
  • Bruce Castillo, Ryder LeClair and Jesse Vasquera – MacArthur High School
  • Bulmaro Flores, Kanajah King and Tanim Azid – MacArthur High School
  • Eduardo Serrano – Nimitz High School
  • Erwin Ventura and Henry Cuba – Nimitz High School
  • Victor Blanco, Edward Ortega and Stephanie Salas – Nimitz High School
  • Geovanny Garcia, Daniel Navarro and Daniel Navarro Singh – MacArthur High School
  • Jeremy Bogue and Jonathan Gubser – Nimitz High School
  • Jocelin Perez – MacArthur High School
  • Miseal Rico – MacArthur High School
  • Tori Arellano – MacArthur High School
  • Tryston Gambaro, Dea’John Evans and Beyda Espinoza – MacArthur High School