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Senior design students create solar fridge for Little Village neighborhood

Team AC2DC's refrigerator with solar panels and controls

For their senior design project, Team AC2DC focused on helping a local community. Andres Dimas, Issac Her, Joe Hackl, Mark Istoc, and Oscar Montelongo developed a solar-powered refrigerator for Iglesia Metodista Unida Amor de Dios, a church located in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.

The project was sponsored by Enlace Chicago, a nonprofit dedicated to making positive changes in the lives of Little Village residents.

“I liked the idea of making something practical, something that will help people,” Hackl said.

The project was based on what another team had endeavored to create in a previous year but was thwarted by COVID-19 shutdowns and related supply chain issues. That team achieved the project theoretically, while team AC2DC was able to create the working fridge physically.

The fridge will be located next to the church and will run on solar power, but will also be connected to the electrical grid as a backup. The team has conducted testing, including battery life in higher temperatures.

The teammates agreed that the project entailed a lot of planning and research, providing them with real-world experience. They had to source parts, use a battery large enough to store energy generated by the solar panels, and regulate charging. Since the refrigerator will be connected to the grid, they had to be mindful that all parts used are up to electrical code.

“We kept having to change our design; we would conduct research and then go back and try something else,” Istoc said. “I think one thing the project taught us was how to research.”

The team is looking forward to graduation and their futures. Dimas accepted a position at Sargent & Lundy, working on specifications for power plants. Istoc will  put his electrical engineering degree to work for Exelon, and Her will work as an engineer for Valdes Architecture and Engineering.