Solar Energy Education through a Cloud-Based Desktop Virtual Reality System

Pramod Abichandani, William McIntyre, William Fligor, Deepan Lobo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The sustained growth of the solar energy industry has created the need to formalize solar energy education. This paper elucidates a novel, cloud-based, virtual reality (VR) pedagogical system that provides students with the fundamentals of solar or Photovoltaic (PV) cells, solar (PV) modules, and solar (PV) array installation configurations. The VR system was developed using Unity3d software and was integrated with a Learning Management System (LMS). The system was hosted on the Google Cloud Platform. Students/users accessed the VR system using a standard web browser, making it widely accessible. The VR system consisted of self-guided laboratory modules covering electrical engineering fundamentals of solar (PV) cells such as output power losses as a function of finger length, width, depth, and spacing. Additionally, series and parallel solar (PV) cell connections to create desired voltage and current output, and orientation/tilt considerations of solar (PV) array installations were covered. Physics models to incorporate realistic solar energy behavior were programmed in the VR system. Live graphs showing how parameters affected total power output provided instant feedback to students. An adaptive formative assessment system that tested students' application of electrical engineering fundamentals along with design skills was implemented. The system was used in a first year engineering fundamentals undergraduate class to make solar energy education accessible to early state engineering students. Data collected from the cloud system and student survey indicate growth in student engagement and students' knowledge of introductory solar and electrical engineering topics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8859177
Pages (from-to)147081-147093
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Access
Volume7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)

Keywords

  • Electrical engineering education
  • educational technology
  • solar energy
  • virtual reality

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