Smart Tree



An Engineers for a Sustainable World Project that promotes the use of solar energy and brings students together in an outdoor gathering area.  



Smart Tree is a student-driven design project to build a solar energy charging station at Northwestern. This project was born from a desire to build something impactful with eight solar panels, and has developed into a fully specified design by a group of 15 students in the Engineers for a Sustainable World club at Northwestern.


In its final iteration, Smart Tree is a 14' steel sculpture that functions as a seating space and charging area to be installed on Northwestern's lakefill space in 2018. Eight solar panels are secured on the steel trunk with branches at various heights above 12'. In their optimized orientations, solar energy is converted into usable energy in the form of AC and USB outlets. The seating space is to be constructed of reclaimed wood, in an effort to maximize our use of sustainable building methods. 



Assembly drawing - all dimensions in inches

Prototyping a solar panel bracket

Prototyping a solar panel bracket


As a member of the mechanical team (2014-2015) and a project manager on the mechanical side (2016), I have been responsible for CAD updates to designs, leading brainstorming sessions to develop hardware such as waterproof- protected AC/USB outlets,and choosing building materials and finishes for the tree.

See a complete drawing package here.  


In addition to technical design, this project has required a significant amount of resources both in funding and approvals for installation. I have collaborated with professional structural engineers to evaluate our design, with my team raised $20,000 in funding, and worked with Northwestern's facilities management staff to prepare for installation.



The greatest learning experiences in this project have come from navigating the requirements to approve the design and plan the construction of Smart Tree. This has allowed me to appreciate this scale of a public project, to carefully document design specifications, and to better communicate technical ideas to those outside of my field.

Currently, the team is collaborating with Northwestern's Office of Sustainability to connect with contractors and start construction in the next year.