UCSD students create campus solar relaxing station

The first student engineering project approved to be built on the UC San Diego campus is up and running. “Solar Chill” is a spot for students to get away from stress and, at the same time, a solar station where they can charge electronic devices. The project, which took three years to finalize, started with an idea from students Cyrus Jahanian and Ellen Pots, who said they were inspired by a trip to Costa Rica where they saw many hammocks. They wanted to build an area where students could relax and unwind.

When “Solar Chill” got underway, some engineering students jumped in and came up with the idea of including solar energy in the design. It was fall 2015 when Josh Hill took over. The third-year environmental engineering student was happy to announce the station functions. “Today, we were working on it, just out there with shovels, putting in some plants and landscaping, and I plugged my phone in, and it works!”

For Hill, the best part of building “Solar Chill” was to have a real application for his knowledge. “In school, one mostly is stuck in the classroom staring at equations forever, and being able to actually go out, work on something and see it actually come to life is pretty awesome,” he said.

The site features a 1.5 kilowatt solar tree and two benches made from gabions — wire cages filled with rocks — and Trex, an eco-friendly composite of recycled wood and plastic film. The benches have electrical ports where one can charge multiple devices, and a LED light fixture provides illumination at night.

The cost of the project, although they are still finishing up last details, will reach around $96,000. Hill said that they received discounts and donations that saved $15,000. The most expensive area was the labor because of campus regulations. “Because we are in a public university we needed to have licensed contractors, a part of the funding was for labor cost, so we were able to afford a contractor to assemble the parts and install them on site,” he said.

The students received funding from The Green Initiative Fund, the Triton Engineering Student Council and the Social Innovation Fund. “Solar Chill” can be found on Scholars Drive North next to Building 3 of the Village at Torrey Pines, across from The Rady School of Management on UCSD campus.