< Back
You are here  >   Curriculum  >  Gifted & Talented Programme  >  STEMSEL

2013 STEMSEL WINNER - Heath Eickhoff


In 2012 I went to the Royal Adelaide Show and saw a robotic display in the STEMSEL (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Social Enteprise Learning) display in the technology centre. Seeing the robotic head inspired me to go home and research this and enrol into STEMSEL classes.

The first project I began, after a couple of lessons, was to manipulate boom gates at a railway crossing on my Lego train set using the microprocessor. Dad and I worked on this project for a couple of months. The greatest challenge was to activate flashing lights to coincide with sensor detection and boom gates, knowing that only one function can feature at a time. Other challenges included sensors alerting the microprocessor to a train stopping and to monitor other variables; as well as to work in reverse, so that the train could move in opposite directions, and finally to simplify the program.

After successfully completing this I was motivated to begin something more difficult. I was still attending weekly STEMSEL classes, when the teacher raised the task of designing an environmentally friendly device, which could be judged at the Royal Adelaide Show in 2013.

I decided to make a project, building on the knowledge I was gaining in the classes. I invented the SOLAR TRACKER, a device that positions a solar panel to face the Sun, wherever it may be.  I started by testing the off-axis performance of the solar panel to figure out how accurate the Solar Tracker needed to be. Then I started to construct the the platform, next I added the solar tracking mechanism and the solar panel. After this I added the servo motors to move the solar panel. This took me a couple of months to complete.

I had many problems when building the Solar Tracker. A wire jammed the platform and stripped the gears of the servo motor. The bright sunlight overloaded the sensors so they wouldn’t work properly. The LCD screen I installed drained too much power and drained the battery. I fixed these problems by, installing a servo motor with metal gears, added filters to the sensors and by replacing the LCD with one that didn’t have a backlight.

Once corrected, I began programming and testing the solar panel, adding directional elements.

After testing in a range of conditions, I entered my solar tracker into the show. During judging I impressed all of the official judges by answering all of their questions. One of them even gave me a copy of his latest book.

Once the judging was over, I won first place in my category, and the Solar Tracker won the “Best Exhibit in Innovation, Invention and Enterprise” across all categories in the Junior Technology section (which included Secondary School entries). My prize for this is two tickets to Singapore to see a technology competition.