Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

Team 13A intends to design, create, and implement an automatic, solar sensing blind controller. The basic idea is that the controller will include some solar sensors that track the sun’s position and adjust the blinds position according to some user defined parameters. The intent of the project is save the user money by adjusting blinds for the most energy efficient setting. The team also intends to have user programmable settings for convenient lighting. For example, the user can set the blinds to open at 7:30 AM to allow for natural lighting to wake up the user.

Automatic solar sensing blinds are part of the smart home industry. The market is just now beginning to grow, with the only main competitor being Flip Flic: a stand alone unit aimed at tackling the automated blinds in a similar fashion. Team 13A has focused on  a minimalistic design that they hope will bring them success in the market. Currently smart home technology is bought in large purchases for home remodel or mass home integration. Many smart home products are integrated with smart assistants like Alexa or Siri. Team 13A hopes that their minimalistic design can undercut competitors while still giving an elegant design, and keep it simple enough that integration with other smart home technology can follow.


Proof of Concept

Solar Sun Systems is trying to prove that the use of an automated blind system has the potential of lowering the heating and cooling costs of a home or office by allowing solar energy to enter a building via particular blind angles. These solar sensing blinds will be a part of the growing smart home market which aims at having efficient control of consumer level spaces, using either automation, phone applications, or voice control.

The purpose of the blinds will be to optimize the amount of sunlight or heat entering the living space. For example, during winter months, the blinds will allow the maximum amount of light into the home for proper heating. The system will be powered by a rechargeable battery and a solar cell. The system will run and a motor will drive the blinds to the appropriate orientation based on the data gathered from four light sensors. The user will also have the ability to position the blinds in whichever orientation they would like by using buttons which can move the motor.  The system will also calibrate nightly to ensure the system can know where the blinds should be in the “closed position.”


Final design

The product is a modular, solar sensing and tracking device that will adjust blinds according to the sun’s position and the temperature needs within a home or office. The device should be self-sustaining by running continuously without user input, and by being run via solar power. The product will feature two separate units, connected via cable: (a) housing containing the circuitry and mechanical components that is attached to the pre-existing blind system and (b) solar cell with a semi-circular bulb containing the photocells.

The unit will be capable of tracking the sun throughout the day and adjusting the blinds to maximize the incoming light into the room while in the heating mode. While in cooling mode, the blinds will primarily remain closed unless the user manually opens the blinds. These settings have been determined to be the most optimum for heating/cooling of the home.

The original intent of developing solar sensing blinds was to decrease energy cost by minimizing energy loss through the least insulated part of the common home, the window. For example, if one were to leave their blinds open all day in the summer or closed all day in the winter, a central air conditioning and heating unit would have to expend unnecessary energy in order to keep the space at a desirable temperature, rather than letting nature passively aid the situation. Solar sensing blinds allow for the blinds to automatically optimize themselves throughout the course of a day, so even if the owner is not home their blinds are adjusting in a way that reduces the work the rest of the heating and cooling system must undergo to maintain a temperature. Additionally, energy could be conserved by utilizing ambient light from the sun to illuminate a space, rather than relying on artificial lighting that requires the expense of energy.

As Blinding Sun Systems continued to develop the product, the team realized many other potential benefits of the product as well, including home security by giving the appearance of subtle, yet constant activity and simply the convenience that home automation provides in opposed to manually adjusting each set of blinds. Consumers could derive benefit from solar sensing blinds simply because they would no longer have to even concern themselves with the movements of their blinds throughout the day. Blinding Sun System’s take on solar sensing blinds also offers a low-cost entry into home automation, a popular growing market that promotes passive energy conservation and cost savings through added convenience.



Fabrication of the solar sensing blinds attachment is being completed almost completely via additive manufacturing techniques, along with utilization of some off the shelf parts. Using a Fusion3 3D printer, Blinding Sun Systems can capture the accuracy required for all of their parts using PLA or Carbon Fiber 1.75mm filaments. Several components including the hook attachment, housing, and solar panel fixture are being printed via the 3D printer, allowing a very low manufacturing cost. If the project were to be taken to mass manufacturing scale, it is likely that 3D printing would still be a viable option for mass production of parts, quickly and inexpensively. Off-the-shelf components being used in the fabrication largely include the electronics – a solar panel, battery, breadboard, motor, and arduino. The 3D printed parts are being designed to build around the dimensions of the off-the-shelf parts.

Several different connections are being utilized to easily assemble the components. For example, there should only be four screws required to assemble all components. All other fixturing is being done by design. For example, the hook attaches directly to the motor via a compression fit, and the housing will clip together using snap hooks.


Testing and Results


Meet the Team


Alex Poles is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, and has been in Reno since starting college in the Fall of 2014. He is a fourth year student, that will be graduating in the Spring with a minor in Renewable Energy. Throughout his college career, Alex has always strived for excellence, and has maintained over a 3.7 GPA and made the Dean’s List three times in six semesters at the University. Along with working hard in school, Alex was a Resident Assistant on campus for one year, and has worked in an engineering position for nearly two years.

Currently, Alex’s goals are to begin the search for an internship in the Reno area that can transition to a full time position after graduation in the Spring, preferably in a design engineering position. Alex has also coached track and field for three years, and intends to continue with that in the Spring semester, coaching pole vault at Galena High School.


Alex Baglione is from Las Vegas, Nevada and has been attending the University of Nevada in Reno since the Fall 2014 semester.He will be graduating in Spring 2018 from the university’s Honors Program with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. The idea of creating and interacting with the the world around him has shaped and guided his passion to pursue engineering. He feels that he has been able to successfully develop his knowledge from an understanding of math and theory to the beginning of  pragmatic understanding how things work in the world around him. His current favorite engineering project is a theremin he is currently working on completing.

Outside of academia, he is an Eagle Scout and sculptor of delicious pizzas at the Blind Onion.

Currently, he is focusing on finishing his degree, expanding his hands-on engineering skills, and obtaining a career or internship that can progress into a career. He is open to all types of engineering careers, but feels like he would specifically enjoy something in CAD design or manufacturing.


Jens Christiansen is a senior student pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno since the Fall of 2014. He grew up in Reno but was born in Denmark. Jens has worked since the age of 16 in various jobs to self fund college. Outside of school Jens enjoys hands-on learning and being outside climbing, hiking, and enjoying the view as often as possible. He currently holds  two jobs and worked at an engineering firm in Truckee, California over the summer. Jens will be graduating in Spring 2018 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering as well as a minor in renewable energy.

Currently, Jens is focusing on finishing his diploma and looking for a career that will be rewarding and exciting. He is open to any and all potential career paths and could conceivably return to school for a masters degree.



Mark Martinez is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno who will be graduating in May 2018 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in renewable energy. Mark is originally from Las Vegas and moved to Reno in 2014 when he began school at UNR. One of the most difficult, but rewarding projects that Mark has been a part of while at the university is his project in ENGR 301 where he was able to design and conduct an engaging, educational, engineering experiment with a class of elementary school students. Mark has grown in all phases of himself. Two skills that particularly stand out are the development in his communication and teamwork skills, both things that are crucial in the engineering world. Outside of school Mark spends his time surrounded by music with his radio show at Wolf Pack Radio, making his own music, and his music-based YouTube channel which he is especially proud of in its development.

Mark’s current goals include making Dean’s List during his last two semesters at the university, finding full-time employment to transition into after graduation, and also simply continuing his growth as a person. After graduation, Mark would like to find a career in renewable energy in hopes of advancing the world in an efficient, but ethical manner.



Jeffery Hoke is a senior level student who has been in school since Fall 2014 and is planning on graduating with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nevada Reno, Spring 2018. Jeff is from Las Vegas, but was born and spent early childhood in Texas. Jeff has overcome many challenges at UNR, most notably going through an elementary school teaching project while maintaining two jobs to support himself through school. Jeff has made constant growth in his engineering exploits, and has developed skills in decision making and design processing.

Currently Jeff is focused on graduating in the Spring, but hopes to get a job in process or manufacturing after school. Jeff eventually wants to come back to school, get an MBA, and eventually become a plant manager for a large company.