Dr Sal's Team Wins 1st at Expo Pitch!

May 30, 2019

Dr Sal's Team Wins 1st at Expo Pitch!

Irma “Letty” Cavazos, Rajani Budha, Al Kassim El Mazrui and Taha Bueshi, Electrical and Computer Engineering students, working with Dr. "Sal" Portillo from the ECE dept., were awarded first place in the Engineering EXPO Pitch Competition held Fri, May 3.

Their work involved the development, design and build of a low-cost Solar Powered Battery Charger for use during natural disasters and other events where power is cutoff for days or weeks.

This project brought an engineering solution to a pressing human and social problem. In the past few years, natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes have left large portions of the population without any electrical power. This results in loss of communication as cell phone batteries cannot be charged, even if there is surviving or temporary infrastructure that can function as the cell provider, and no lights.

Darkness and isolation means no emergency news, information on food or water supplies, nor communication with medical or rescue services is available. Nights can run long without light and in an emergency medical situation light can be a lifesaver. To this end Letty, Rajani, Al Kassim, and Tahad worked with Dr. Portillo to come up with a viable path forward for designing and building a low-cost portable solar power based charger with the capability of providing power not just for charging batteries but also for powering routers, modems as well as sources of light.

Their design focused on a dual battery system where one battery serves as the source while the other charges, all controlled by a low-cost off the shelf micro-controller system with customized code controlling the charging, discharging and switching as well as providing a digital output of the charging and discharging status to the user. The group also developed a commercialization plan whereby a larger system could be provided inexpensively and well below cost to NGO’s and other relief organizations by careful design, mass production and possible collaboration with large corporations. This was a collaborative endeavor, truly a team effort between the students, their advisor and the ECE department that showcased UNM’s ECE commitment to educating and producing the best engineers in the world.

Group Shot of Sal's Team
Taha Bueshi, Irma ‘Letty’ Cavazos, Rajani Budha,  Al Kassim El Mazrui and their advisor Dr. Sal Portillo
celebrating their hard work with their award plaques — Not shown is their prize check award which also likely contributes to the students smiles.