If at First You Don’t Succeed, Harness the Sun to Do Your Bidding

Posted in Crafting at 10:26 am by Stephanie Bryant

Last weekend, a friend of mine and I worked on a solar panel kit I got through the Solar Pocket Factory project I backed on Kickstarter a while back.

We had previously created a working prototype with bobby pins, but with the extremely fragile solettes being unattached and unprotected, this isn’t a viable permanent solution:

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So, we set about gluing each of the solettes down.

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After each solette, we tested using a multimeter.

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When the last one was glued down, the readings went haywire. Where before, we were getting a consistent 5-6v, now we were fluctuating between 1 and 3. Something was introducing unexpected resistance. We suspected the last couple of panels may have had glue problems, so I surgically sliced out the offending panel (shattering it… we ended up using every one of that particular size of panel, between breakage and the sheer number of them we needed to get a consistent 5v current).

After fixing that I did my first soldering ever, and soldered the wires to the copper tape. Ta da! That was pretty easy; my friend is a very good teacher.

We did a bunch of materials tests with the plastics that came in the kit, especially since I didn’t understand at first what the EVA and PET sheets were for. The Solar Pocket Factory kit is awesome, but it doesn’t tell you which sheets are which, or what side should be up or down (there’s a right and wrong side on these things). The documentation is weak, at best. Really great if you are, say, a solar engineer. Not so great if you are a home project do-er who is trying something out for $35 or less.

The plan was to solder some wires onto the copper tape and run the charge through some stuff (we haven’t gotten there yet), connect to a micro-USB plug, and charge my kindle from this amazing little panel.

I know, you can buy a solar panel charger for USB devices fairly cheaply. That’s not the point. I got to learn stuff with this project! I soldered!

Anyway, we patiently worked on the materials part, melting plastic and damaging an ironing board in the process. Finally, we figured out which pieces go where, and put it all together. Carefully, so as not to break the solettes with the weight of the iron, I ironed the solar panel.

We tested it with the multimeter. 0.0. Took it outside. 0.0.

Something had gone terribly wrong.

Disappointed by undaunted, I twisted the wires together and announced “Christmas tree ornament!”

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We’re still troubleshooting and haven’t given up. It’s obvious that something is wrong with the plastics, and we’re going to look into giving these an acetone bath to recover the solettes (now that we’ve confirmed that won’t damage the solettes), then re-trying with layers of epoxy to seal the panel.

Moral of the story: Sometimes, projects don’t work. That’s okay.


August books

Posted in BookReviews-text at 11:47 pm by Stephanie Bryant

#7: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

#8: Pale Fire by Nabokov

Epyllion: Friendship is Magic, Dragon Edition

Posted in Gaming at 12:58 pm by Stephanie Bryant

Last night, I ran Epyllion, a powered-by-the-apocalypse game in which you play a juvenile dragon adventuring in Dragonia, to find and stop the Darkness. I played with a married couple of friends of mine (long-time D&D players), and their 8 year old daughter (this is her first RPG). In real life, their daughter is a dragon currently polymorphed into a little girl, so this was a perfect way for her to revisit her natural form for a while.

(What?!? I’m not going to tell her otherwise, people! You try telling a dragon she’s not a dragon and see where it gets you! No thanks– I am soft and go well with ketchup!)

It’s a fairly simple premise with some interesting rules mechanics that really support cooperative play. It’s currently in its “drake edition” (beta playtesting), so the book isn’t really complete yet.

This is my writeup of our adventures, plus some playtester and “meta” notes, which I’ll demarcate in purple italic text. I’m going to call the players Mom, Dad, and Kiddo here, to protect their privacy. Character names will remain the same.

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RPGaDay 30: Rarest rpg

Posted in Gaming at 9:43 am by Stephanie Bryant

30: Rarest RPG Owned
We have the Gurps Horseclans book. It’s not a full RPG, but is instead an expansion book for playing the  Mongol tribes in Gurps. It currently goes for about $85 on eBay.image


RPGaDay 29: Most Memorable Encounter

Posted in Gaming at 1:05 pm by Stephanie Bryant

29: Most Memorable Encounter

I will remember this one for a long time, because this was the day I made the DM cry. It’s memorable for very meta reasons, but also because this was a prime example of our DM being awesome and not turning us back onto the railroad tracks just because we had messed up his beautiful map. Good job, Steve.

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