Solar Powered Model Engines to Teach Principles of Renewable Energy.





Introduction: Solar Powered Model Engines to Teach Principles of Renewable Energy.

About: I'm a retired mechanical engineer, woodworker, boater, and inventor. Now I'm getting into wood turning, and have found that all my wood projects need not be flat and square.

The US continues to be dependent on imported oil for our energy. We have to change that and become energy independent. THAT is what this independence project means to me!

I believe we need to promote renewable energy sources in any way we can. The US is sadly still very much dependent on foreign oil imports, primarily from the volatile Middle Eastern countries. Education is the key. The best way to gain energy independence is by encouraging our youth to pursue careers in engineering and science, and to provide them with the opportunity to discover new breakthroughs in renewable energy.

Promote the development of solar energy as a renewable energy source.

1. Design and build operating models used to help teach physics and engineering concepts. An example is the solar powered Stirling cycle engine featured in my video. I will donate these models to high schools and universities. I have plans for additional working models which demonstrate solar energy principles. These would have transparent components so that students could see internal workings.
2. Volunteer my time to tutor students in subjects of physics and engineering, especially related to energy.
3. Document the designs of these model engines, using AutoCAD and other Autodesk software, and make these design drawings available to the public.

The Stirling cycle engine is not new; the concept was patented by Robert Stirling in 1816. So far they are generally not considered to be commercially viable, and are mainly used as models. My goal has been to design modifications which will allow these engines to run on solar energy. The contest video shows an engine I designed and built, powered only by the sunlight falling upon it. This type of working heat engine is a great way to explain many important science and engineering concepts. Students can actually see and visualize the processes. The Stirling cycle is covered in all thermodynamics text books.
See this video clip to see my model Stirling engine running on solar energy:

I’m a mechanical and civil engineer, now retired, with forty years experience in design and construction of industrial manufacturing plants. I have a patent on an invention in an unrelated field.

I hope to win a prize; it would indicate a vote of confidence. But I do not need a cash award to continue my project, and prefer not to be considered for the grand prize. I believe this award should go to one of the young entrants who have great ideas for starting a business. They could use the startup capital to bring their dreams to reality.

Bill Wells
DOB 11/28/1941



    • Oil Contest

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    Please be positive and constructive.




    Hello. I cant see the content of this project! Can anyone help me with that?

    1 reply

    It isn't a project. I entered a contest several years ago and they needed a video from me. I would have deleted it, but due to a glitch was not able to. If you want to see the solar powered Stirling engine running, there is a short video on YouTube. Just enter my name and "solar powered Stirling engine".

    Thanks for your interest

    Bill Wells

    Thank you.

    Also see this project:

    I can send you more information.


    Hi, Bill,
    I commend you for giving back in this way.
    My belief is that energy independance, and in fact survival, stems not from commercial research, but rather from individual grassroots efforts. Let me give you an example. My interest in alternative enery is because I simply cant afford the skyrocketing cost of fuel. therefore it doesn't make sense to purchase a $40,'000 electric car to save gas. the real solution is to build my own alternative energy vehicle. this applies to all area's of alternative energy.
    Perhaps, to contribute to this movement, you could publish a full instructable on a sterling engine with details about the principles of opperation. Any other technical expertise you could share with us would be great too. I would love to learn a simple practical way to make my own solarvoltaic cells.
    thanks for reading my ramblings.

    2 replies

    Thank you, Heath.

    I pretty much agree with you.

    I am planning to publish an Instructable on this or a similar project. I started taking photos when I started building this one, but there were so many revisions that I never kept up.


    I know how you feel! I get so caught up in the making, I forget about the photographing!

    Bravo on your entry, Bill!

    Great project! I hope you do well in the contest - they sure are a vote of confidence!

    Good initiative, Bill! Congratulations.

    Also solar cooking may help many people around the world, especially those living far of cities.

    Wait till my motor is finished!

    3 replies

    Gracias, Osvaldo.

    Cuando se complete tu engine, y estoy seguro de que va a ser, puedes esperar una llamada telefónica desde Estocolmo!

    When you complete your engine, and I'm sure you will, you can expect a phone call from Stockholm!

    No sé si lograré hacerlo, Bill, pero ya estoy trabajando en él. Me tomé una semana para sacar la mugre de mi taller, ordenarlo un poco y trasladar el torno, para hacer dos moldes de madera semidura para que un conocido me haga la caldera y el desplazador con ellos.

    PS: Yo creía que vivías en Washington.


    I don't know if I will do it, Bill, but I'm working on it. I took a week to remove dirt from my workshop, order it a bit and move the lathe, to make two semi wooden molds to an acquaintance make me the boiler and displacer with them.

    PS: I thought you lived in Washington.

    Si, soy de Washington el estado, al lado del Pacifico. No soy de Washington, el capital del pais. Los dos son muy diferentes!
    En mi opinión, un volante de inercia será necesario.

    Yes, I'm from Washington state, near the Pacific. I'm not from Washington, the country's capital.
    In my opinion, a flywheel will be necessary.

    Dear Bill,

    I'm sending you a vote of Confidence in advance! This idea is similar to one that I've been pushing myself to learn electronics to achieve. I've got a ways to go, but seeing projects like this here on gives me hope and inspiration, thank you so much... :D

    1 reply

    Thank you Drake, appreciate your comments.
    Electronics, that is a subject I may never master!

    Hey Bill,

    I love that you want to give back and I thoroughly enjoyed your video. Please let me know if you do publish this instructable as I do hands on science with kids and am always looking for more things to teach them in my after school programs. If you would like to see more of what I do, feel free to check out my entry (Extreme Science) in this contest. You have my vote of confidence! I can't wait to add a class on renewable energy.