The Airstream Games. Catching Solar Power. Model-jay. – Julie Tapia, Dream Designers

Picture 1: paper model of a trailer (

Picture 1: paper model of a trailer (

The engineering students are currently working on building a scaled model of the Airstream (similar to the model in picture 1). The scale will be 1:18, and there are several constraints/specifications we have to follow. Example: the model needs to be neutral in color, meaning we must only use gray, brown, white, and/or black. This will allow us to focus on the structure of the Airstream, not the aesthetics. Dream Designers has taken pictures of the Airstream, measured it, and then labeled the pictures with the dimensions (picture 2). Next, we will convert all the measurements according to the 1:18 scale and start building the model. Within our groups we must choose a floor plan to be represented in the model. Dream Designers has brainstormed some really good floor plans. We will probably end up making a floor plan that incorporates the best parts of each of our floor plans.

Picture 2: Airstream measurements

Picture 2: Airstream measurements

All the engineering teams must also calculate the energy requirements of the Airstream. First, the appliances that will go on the Airstream must be chosen based on the teacher surveys. Next, we will determine which system (DC or AC) will run each appliance. Then, we will need to do some research and determine the best battery and solar array for the Airstream’s DC system. The final step is to research specific appliances (that are as Eco-friendly as possible) and make a spreadsheet of their cost. The key to finishing all of this, plus the model, is dividing and conquering. My team members (Gaby Ponce and Faith Vanderburg) will work on the model, while I work on the research/calculating portion.

Picture 3: solar power system

Picture 3: solar power system (

Since the Airstream DC system will be solar powered, we must be familiar with solar power systems and how they work. I have learned that solar panels are composed of photovoltaic cells (made from quartz crystals) that produce between .45 and .5 volt each. A solar system includes the panel(s), a controller, and a suitable bank of batteries. It provides power for 12-volt DC equipment, but if you want it to provide power for 120-volt AC equipment, you must use an inverter. In our Airstream, the solar system will only be powering 12-volt DC equipment. Planning our solar system will require us to do some math, but thankfully it’s simple math, not algebra. First of all, we must know what appliances the Airstream will have before we begin planning the solar system. To figure out the number of ampere-hours needed in the battery bank, the amount of 12-volt DC electricity used in an average day must be calculated. This can be done by multiplying the consumption rate of each individual appliance by the length of time it will be used. Once you arrive at  the total ampere-hours used in a day, multiply the value by four and the result will be close to the minimum amount of ampere-hours needed in the battery bank. Although this all seems complicated, Dream Designers will work together to learn, clearly understand, and get things done.


One comment

  1. Solar panels would be a perfect energy solution for this project.

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