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In place of a second co-op opportunity, I completed an internship with PowerHouse from July - August 2023 as a Mechatronics Engineer. PowerHouse is a solar engineering startup based in Danvers, MA. 

Design Overview

For its primary prototype, PowerHouse developed a trailer with an array of solar panels that can be scheduled to deploy / retract to store solar energy in two 24-volt batteries. The panels are deployed / retracted with the extension / retraction of two pairs of potentiometer feedback heavy duty linear actuators. After a successful prototype demonstration at the end of my internship, this product has received funding from the United States Navy.


Linear Actuators

The linear actuators used in this project each have a speed difference of ±10 %. Without using a control box to synchronize the four actuators, several components broke under torsion when testing the prototype. Since there is not a control box available that is compatible with the actuators used, I was asked to design a system to provide synchronized control of the two sets of linear actuators for a naval demonstration.


The created control box I developed utilizes an Arduino Mega and four H-bridge motor controllers, one for each actuator. Two 24-V batteries on the trailer provide power to a 12-V buss bar setup, which provides power to the actuators. A 9-V battery provides power to the Arduino, and a breadboard is used to provide more connections to the 5-V Arduino output and ground.



The actuators are synced both within and between pairs. If one actuator / pair is ahead of the other, its speed will be reduced to allow the other to catch up. Potentiometer readings are obtained and normalized to accurately compare the positions of the actuators. As outlined in the README, a SNES controller is used to calibrate and control the system with unique combinations of button inputs.

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