Physics without borders

Build a solar tracker as a master project

Teaching experimental physics requires the creation of set-ups and the use of... experiments. Discover and support the project of a Senegalese academics.

Marie Pascaline Sarr, a PhD candidate at Alioune Diop University in Bambey (Senegal), has designed an experimental project for her university's master's students: the creation of heliostat test benches. It is a good training project because it is multidisciplinary. She is looking for support.


Mechatronics, applied research


Sub-Saharan Africa is unable to meet the energy needs of its population. This is a paradox when one considers the great solar potential available on the African continent. The lack of infrastructures for the exploitation of these resources can be identified as one of the main causes.

In the renewable energy sector, training is not satisfactory, particularly in solar thermodynamics. In Sahelian Africa, only Burkina Faso has a solar thermodynamic system. It is thus necessary for the successful integration and promotion of renewable energies that students are introduced to practical work through the use of modern, accessible and inexpensive technologies.

Summary of the project

This project presents a test bed for a solar tracking system. The system consists of a mobile mirror that follows the sun in order to reflect the sun's rays onto a fixed point, the receiver.

The solar tracking system is called a mechatronic system. It is constitued by an electromechanical part and a control part.

This proposal aims to develop the students' skills in the field of design, implementation and validation of mechatronic systems. The implementation of such an experimental platform would allow the teacher to verify and confirm the theoretical aspects, while the students will learn in a stimulating environment where they can generate a complex prototype to solve a problem.

The new prototype will serve as a tool for learning solar energy automation but also as a balance between analysis and simulation with the corresponding functional project. Once such a project has been completed, the students will be able to develop other projects in different fields: control, robotics, optics, etc.

State of the art

The system was the subject of a master's thesis at the Alioune Diop University of Bambey: development of open-loop control of an autonomous mini heliostat. It is an integral part of a PhD topic. This means that everything concerning the mechanical study, the choice of the different mechanical components and the control part has already been made. A control prototype of the mechanical system has already been set up (see photo).

IMG 20190820 152908 1

The prototype in action


Since thermodynamic solar tracking systems are not widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, the implementation of this project would benefit not only the university's students but also those of other Senegalese universities. Practical work on control, electronics, mechanics and even the Internet of Things can be done with this bench, since mechatronics is the conjunction of all these fields.

Moreover the synergy noted for the elaboration of this project allows to establish contacts with researchers from different fields of activities. The implementation of this project motivates and increases the expertise of the people involved and generates a validation of such experiences through training programs, evaluation of institutions.

Description of project activities

Activities will be organized to:

  • introduce students to the design and mechanical study of a system;
  • consolidate their knowledge in computer science, electronics, control and supervision;
  • publish the scientific results obtained.

Expected results:

  • Implementation of the monitoring system;
  • students are able to carry out projects and design them: entrepreneurship;
  • methodology;
  • dimensioning of the sensor;
  • dimensioning of the mechanical and control components;
  • elaboration of the monitoring system.


The estimation of requirements in equipments takes into account the main components needed. We can take can of the rest (mirrors, camera, foundations, transmission systems...). Quantities are for 10 test benches.

Equipments Quantity Price
Controller cards 5 arduino uno cards 30 euros
Moteor driver boards 10 (big easy driver) 100 euros
Stepper motor 10 de 0.45 N.m 200 euros
Drive systems Belts and pulleys 100 euros
Power supply 12V 5A 70 euros
Modules xbee S2C Digi 10 20 euros








Individuals or laboratories that can help the project can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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