A STUDENT from Cirencester has been awarded the Thales Research & Technology Award for an outstanding final project at The University of Reading.

Sam Denning achieved a final project grade of 88 per cent from the School of Systems Engineering at the end of his electronic engineering degree.

The award is given to students who receive an outstanding mark for a final project relating to an area of research that the electronics company Thales has a special interest in.

Sam’s project involved using three sensors to align solar panels towards the sun automatically throughout the day, resulting in a 43 per cent increase in power output compared to a static panel.

Sam’s project supervisor Dr Ben Potter said: “It was a real pleasure working with Sam. I remember being very impressed when he showed up to the first project meeting of the new academic year having already built a working prototype over the summer.”

“It was clear he was an exceptional student from the beginning, and I am very pleased that he has received recognition for his achievements.”

Sam’s grade is in the top end of all final projects from his year, with only a handful of students achieving grades as high as 88 per cent each year.

The device itself rotates and tilts the solar panels, using information collected from three separate sensors every ten seconds, to face the source of light and remarkably cost under £100.

Speaking about winning the award he said: “It’s a nice feeling when you put hundreds of hours into the project and it gets recognised.”

Sam explained that he had seen other people testing similar single and dual axis designs but that extra components he added in the design process allowed him to improve the power output.

As well as this improvement Sam explained that his idea was simple enough that it could easily be scaled up to work for anything up to and including a whole solar farm.

Commenting on Sam's project Technical Director at Thales Research and Technology Dr. David Linsdall said “Sam’s approach to an issue of global importance – how to effectively exploit solar power as a renewable energy source – showed real innovation and solid electronic engineering skills.

"The results he achieved were fantastic, and he is a deserving winner of this year’s Thales Research & Technology Prize.”

To view a video of Sam's solar panels tracking the sun, click here.