Self-Raising Lightning Rod to Prevent Building Damage




About: The BCAMRL is a Mechatronics Research Lab, founded in 2014 on the campus of Bergen County Academies, a magnet high school within the Bergen County Technical School District. Students create innovations base...

For my research project, I am creating a self-raising lightning rod. I have named my idea Self-Raising Lightning Rod to Prevent Building Damage. Many of the buildings that need to be protected with lightning rods are great works of architecture, and normal lightning rods are eyesores that detract from their aesthetics. For this reason, many historical buildings are not protected and are vulnerable to lightning. My lightning rod will lie flat, out of sight, when not in use and would only raise itself when a possibility of lightning was detected. This has the added benefit of being less likely to be knocked over by strong winds, falling tree branches, etc. The rod would start out flat on the roof and raise 90 degrees when lightning is detected.

To detect lightning, I will predict when there is a risk of storms. To do this, I will track trends in barometric pressure using a barometric pressure sensor. Based on the current barometric pressure and the recent trend in barometric pressure, I can determine whether clouds have formed or a storm is coming. This method will have to be calibrated to region, as barometric pressure trends are not constant in all areas of the country and barometric pressure is dependent on altitude.

While I believe this is a worthwhile project, there are some challenges and limitations to overcome. Because lightning rods must be installed by professionals and have a lead buried underground, and I cannot actually test my prototype with lightning, the actually lightning absorption part of my prototype will not be functional. However, it will be a useful prototype that demonstrates how lightning can be predicted and handled.

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Step 1: Materials

  • Raising Mechanism and Motor
  • Metal Plate
  • Screws and Bolts
  • Mock Lightning Rod
  • Safety Tape
  • Barometric Pressure Sensor
  • Arduino
  • Motor Shield
  • Wires and Breadboard

Step 2: Step 1: Mechanism

Build or find a mechanism that can raise the lightning rod with a motor. For this project, I took the motor and mechanism off a satellite dish.

Step 3: Step 2: Mounting

Mount the mechanism onto a piece of metal using screws and bolts. Attach a metal rod to the mechanism using bolts and wrap the end in safety tape.

Step 4: Step 3: Electronics

Connect the motor and barometric pressure sensor to an Arduino and shield in the pictured configuration. SDA and SCL on the barometric pressure sensor connect to SDA and SCL on the motor shield. VIN connects to 3V and ground to ground.

Step 5: Step 4: Code

The attached code will read in values from the barometric pressure sensor, predict whether there is a storm risk, and raise and lower the lightning rod accordingly.

Step 6: Step 5: Finished Project

The finished project works as described in this video.



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    2 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Interesting idea. To expand on it add a solar panel to keep batteries charged. Then you also need to do a really good job of electrically isolating everything. Lightning is very destructive and will jump great distances killing electronics. Possibly something like an opto coupler and a small Faraday Cage.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    You're absolutely right regarding lightnings and their energy. To be honnest I doubt any opto coupler would protect a system against a power source able to create a several meter long electric arc. Nothing can avoid lighting power.