What is Helios?
Helios is a DIY heliostat kit that teaches high school students basic engineering principles. Its design was commissioned by Professor Alexander Mitsos of RWTH Aachen University (Germany) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was developed by MIT undergraduate research intern and Helios Founder, Phillip H. Daniel (Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2013).
Our goal is to give high schools a low cost tool to introduce their students to engineering and subsequently increase the diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. We believe hands-on projects, such as Helios, are a perfect way to do just this. In fact, a project based early exposure to engineering (Fischertechnik Marble Sorters and Pneumatic Potato Launchers) is part of what inspired us to study STEM.
How does Helios work?
Helios is an open loop heliostat. This means that it uses a formula to compute the elevation and azimuth angle of the sun, based on the time and device's location. To do this, we use a computer algorithm developed at the Plataforma Solar de Almeri and reformatted for Arduino by Hannes Hassler (under a Creative Commons license). By specifying the Helios’s location, users are able to reflect light from the sun onto whatever stationary point they choose.
What will you learn?
Construction of Helios will teach a basic knowledge of mechanical assembly, through the implementation of concepts such as belted power transmission and stabilizing crossbeams. Users will also be introduced to computer science, as they will learn enough about the Arduino programming language to input their geographical location into the tracking algorithm. These milestones make the Helios an excellent tool to introduce engineering to high school students.
Who can build a Helios?
EVERYONE with steady hands. Helios is a DIY kit meant to inspire high school student's interests in engineering, but it is also a great science and/or weekend project for tinkerers, indoor gardeners looking for a few more hours of sunlight, obnoxious peers just outside your window (nothing like the sun in their eyes to drive away noisy neighbors), and even environmentalists looking to prototype solar thermal collectors in their back yards.No previous experience in mechanical engineering or computer science is needed.
Vision: For Helios to Take Flight Across the Country...via Bicycles
To accomplish our goal of inspiring engineers, the Helios team will be teaching an assembly class at MIT’s annual Spark program. During Spark, students in grades 7-12 choose classes to take from a wide range of subjects offered by MIT undergraduates, from Star Wars fight choreography to DIY robotics (Us!). However, MIT's Spark will not be our only event. Helios is also hitting the road this summer (June-August) on a bike tour from Berkeley, California to Washington, DC. The biking team consists a group of like-minded MIT students who will also be working to increase the public's awareness of the importance of fostering STEM education. During this road-trip, the Helios team will make a series of stops to teach open classes on the theory and practice of solar thermal energy. Our goal is to teach at least one class in every state that we stop in, to influence students across the US.
Our Open-Source Promise
The goal of Helios is to promote engineering education. Because this is our main focus, our work is licensed under the GNU FDL license. Users have full rights to reproduce and improve on what we have done, as long as they continue to do so under the same license. We hope that users will improve the design and continue to evolve Helios into a more effective learning tool.
Where does your money go?
Everything we raise during this campaign will go towards:
- Fulfilling Kickstarter reward requests for our generous supporters
- Purchasing kit materials to mail to the varies stops along our Cross-Country Helios Assembly Tour
- Purchasing materials for the MIT Spark Helios Assembly Course
Buzz Around the Internet
Every little bit helps, thanks Paul (@englishpaulm) February 5, 2013
— Ethan Bagley (@EBagsLOLZ) January 23, 2013
Risks and challenges
Foam core was chosen as the structural material for Helios because it allows the device to be low cost and assembled with basic tools. While financially accessible to a wider audience, this design choice also means that the Standard Edition Helios must be protected during inclement weather, if used outside.
The Special Edition Helios is more durable than the Standard version, however the electronics are still not waterproof. If you seek to build a commercial-grade solar thermal collector, or another system that requires a very durable heliostat, then Helios may not be for you.
The Special Edition and Standard Edition Helios's were carefully designed, and are composed of high quality materials. However, the integrity of a completed Helios depends on the care that is put into its assembly. All Kickstarter fulfilled kits will be handcrafted by a team of caring individuals (Us!), using commercial-grade laser cutters to ensure that you receive the highest quality product. If you prefer to assemble your own Helios, our assembly manual (which comes with every Helios kit) is an easy to read step-by-step guide.
Whichever version of the Helios you decide to purchase, you will be helping us inspire the next generation of engineers.
The Helios Team
- (30 days)