MECHATRONICS BLOG

The following section details the technical blogs for the Mechatronics program at the University of Waterloo. 

 
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MTE Update 17 - Gearing up for Symposium

March 22, 2018

Tomorrow is the day! After months of hard work, we are extremely excited to be presenting at the Mechatronics symposium tomorrow! The poster is finally done and all the cases are assembled. Come visit us in DC between 1-5pm!

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MTE Update 16 - Final Mechanical Design

March 21, 2018

It's time to finish up our mechanical enclosure. After several long nights to conceptualize the final design's construction, and even longer days at the machine shop, we have laser cut all our parts and are assembling our demo units. With a touch of spray paint, they will look amazing in a few days at the symposium.

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MTE Update 15 - Stress Testing

March 17, 2018

This part is stressful! It's finally time to begin testing our entire network. All the hubs have their own battery and connection to the network, but only a few hubs have a connection to a solar panel, therefore they will be constantly sharing their energy with one another. 

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MTE Update 14 - Final Simulation Results

March 16, 2018

We have done a lot of market research about the different communities and types of customers our product will help. We noticed that these communities come in all shapes and sizes, and they have very different needs and use cases. We needed a more randomly generated simulation of our product to determine whether or not it will suit all these different situations. Our new simulation runs with communities from 1 home to 100 homes, and we have found that an interconnected system is always more efficient due to peak load balancing. 

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MTE Update 13 - Final Electronics Touchup

March 14, 2018

All the PCBs are tested and we have put the entire product together. Believe it or not, the image to the left is an actual image of the system. As you can see, all the different modules, whether it is the solar module, battery, peer-to-peer connection, connects to the motherboard to make a complete system. Each individual hub works as a stand-alone system. Next up we will be putting the entire network together and perform tests. 

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MTE Update 12 - Hult Prize Regionals

March 10, 2018

The day is finally here, our team made the long journey to Toronto to compete in Toronto's Hult Prize Regional Finals, at York University. We are very excited to be representing the University of Waterloo at this international event. Although we did not win in the end, we were extremely pleased with the feedback we received and the advice from all the judges and participants. Congratulations to the team from the University of Guadalajara on their win! Best of luck in the finals!

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MTE Update 11 - Complete Electronics

Feb 26, 2018

Our second set of PCBs came in! This set has all the individual cards as well as the motherboard which manages the entire hub. However, we cannot directly assemble the entire product just yet. Our electrical team is carefully working on developing each and every PCB individually to check that they are working safely, before putting the entire product together. 

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MTE Update 10 - Filtering

Feb 18, 2018

Trying to reduce product costs often comes down to using cheaper components.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, using a cheaper part gives worse results. The graph on the left shows real data from us controlling the sharing between two nodes. On its own, the sensors are far too noisy to provide reliable measurements for our control systems, and as you can see will waste energy unnecessarily. However using more advanced control techniques and filters such as a Kalman Filter, we can dramatically improve the performance. 

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MTE Update 9 - Electronics Design

Feb 12, 2018

The final electronics will be implemented using a modular slot system. Each function, whether it is charging/discharging a battery, connecting to a solar panel, connecting to appliances, or connecting to other hubs, is handled by individual cards. For a hub to change its functionality, for example, if a household purchases two additional solar panels, they just need to switch the cards to adjust the functionality of the hub. This makes our device extremely versatile and flexible to the user's needs. 

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MTE Update 8 - Mechanical Design 2

Jan 30, 2018

Wow! In a matter of two weeks our mechanical team has made a second, and almost complete, version of our enclosure. This design still has the rounded shape of our prototype and adds user inputs and outputs with the display and the buttons. After careful deliberation, we have decided to route all the wires at either the top or the bottom so that the hub can easily connect to anything within a household. 

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MTE Update 7 - Mechanical Design 1

Jan 12, 2018

Our amazing mechanical team has completed a first iteration of the mechanical design of our enclosure. This design is meant to be slick, aesthetically pleasing, as well as durable and manufacturable. The rounded design of our prototype makes it easy to install and open up, so our users can easily attach more appliances and perform maintenance. 

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MTE Update 6 - Electronics Prototype

Dec 18, 2017

Our first PCBs came in! This PCB has our bi-directional buck-boost converters to the peer-to-peer sharing, as well as several ADCs and current sensors to detect the amount of power being transmitted. We are excited to be assembling it and then testing it later this week. 

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MTE Update 5 - Electronics Design

Oct Nov 29, 2017

Our engineering team has been working hard on the electronics. The first step is to develop the peer-to-peer sharing circuits, which is created using bi-directional buck-boost converters. Each hub will have this circuit to change the voltage level to match the level of the transmission line, in order to share electricity at high efficiency. We first prototyped the entire circuit using breadboards, and once they proved to work, we designed a PCB for it using Altium, and we expect to have a shipment of it later this month!

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MTE Update 4 - Hult Prize Waterloo

Oct Nov 22, 2017

We are pleased to announce that we placed third in Waterloo's Hult Prize competition. The Hult Prize is an international competition where student teams work to tackle some of the world's biggest social problems, as indicated by the UN's sustainable development goals. This year's challenge is 'harnessing the power of energy to Improve the lives of millions". We believe that our system is able to transform the social and economic situations of families and communities, and we're excited to have shared our idea with the judges and the audience. We look forward to the Toronto Regional Finals in March. 

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MTE Update 3 - Solar Panels and Batteries

Nov 17, 2017

Today we picked up some solar panels from our corporate sponsor, SilFab Solar. SilFab is the largest and most advanced solar panel manufacturer in North America. Silfab has a unique Corporate Social Development Program which encourages renewable, clean electricity generation. When we contacted their corporate office about our idea, they were immediately excited and willing to help us with their technology. Their panels will help us test our electronics and develop our energy solution.

MTE Update 2 - Simulations

Oct 16, 2017

To test out our hypothesis we met with Professor Malcolm McColluch from Oxford University. Professor McColluch has been working on energy networks for developing regions in Kenya for over a decade, and he was very excited to see our project because it aligned with results from his research.

But for us, this was not enough. So we ran some simulations in Python to verify the effects and benefits of sharing within a small community in Tanzania. Overall we found that the results were 30% more reliable when connected to the network, even with line losses.

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MTE Update 1 - Idea Conceptialization

September 22, 2017

Today our team met with professor Jatin Nathwani from the University of Waterloo's Institute of Sustainable Energy. We pitched several ideas to him regarding energy development including a flywheel design and a decentralized energy grid. Professor Nathwani shared some insight about solar home development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa including ModiSol and Off-Grid Electric, and how there needs to be a way to make them more sustainable and reliable. In the end, we decided to focus on a decentralized energy network project for developing regions of the world, that would reliably and affordably provide energy access previously thought unimaginable.