Aysha Rahman

Electronnies with Gianni

Oct
23

This post mentions MLOs and SLOs, which are described here

As an astrophysics major, I have taken upon myself the goal of trying to take every physics class offered at Agnes Scott College during my time. So, in my junior year, when physics professor Dr. Nicole Ackerman announced that she would be teaching an electronics course in the fall, I rushed to sign up for it. I didn’t think too much of it; I figured it would be nice to have some knowledge of how electronics work, and perhaps might find that knowledge useful in the distant future, when I was no longer doing astrophysics and had moved onto something else. We did labs and projects, one of them being an Arduino project. During the course of the semester, however, our professor told us that a recent physics alum, who I had taken physics classes with the year prior and who was doing a fellowship at the school’s Center for Sustainability, wanted to do an electronics-related project with some students. I jumped at the opportunity to connect what I learned in class with something hands-on and relevant to my actual life, and so did a few other students. Thus began what we informally called “Electronnies with Gianni”, named after the alum we were working with, Gianni Rodriguez [SLO 7, SLO 12].

The project was this: the solar panels at school were not receiving an optimal amount of sunlight each day due to their placement and angle, so Gianni wanted to build an actuator, programmed using Arduino software that we were learning in class, to move the solar panels throughout the day to achieve as much sunlight as possible [MLO 3, SLO 10]. This class was one she had taken a couple of years prior, so she knew what we were learning in that class and which skills were transferable to the project. It was a challenge working with as many people with varying schedules as we were, and we weren’t able to meet often, so by the end of the semester we didn’t get to build the actuator itself. We were, however, able to build a prototype using photoresistors and motors to follow the direction of sunlight. This project was an exercise in applying lab skills to a hands-on, real-life project, and helped me to see more clearly the value of what I was learning in my classes.

At the time, I thought this was a cool project I could do with people I enjoyed spending time with, but I didn’t realize how far it would take me. It turned out that Electronnies with Gianni sparked my interest in energy, which eventually lead to my Senior Seminar project and an internship at an energy company. Perhaps the title of this project is not the most professional-sounding, but it gave me the opportunity to explore an option in my professional life I never would have thought to seek otherwise. 

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