soul*ar is a set of shoulder pads that resemble armor made of small solar panels. These solar panels power a UV sensor and an RBG LED that change color based on how intense the UV rays are. soul*ar uses the sun, which has the power to give harm us in in varying degrees, and harnesses that potentially harmful energy to protect its wearer — like armor. The intent of this product is to create an awareness of the relationship between the wearer and the environment.
To complete this project, I use solar panels to charge a battery that powered an Arduino, which controls a UV sensor and RGB LED lights that change color based on intensity.
Programming language: Arduino (C/C++)
Other skills utilized: Fabrication, physical computing
With guidance from Sabine Seymour
In a strategic and aesthetic decision, I chose to make the solar panels the main focus of the piece. This was strategic because it (partially) solved how I was going to conceal the hardware. Leveraging the unique appearance of solar panels also differentiates soul*ar from a majority of apparel and accessories that utilize solar panels, which typically attempt to hide them. In fact, I found myself inspired by the look of the solar panels I was using and created a mood board to set the vision for soul*ar as a product and brand.
A precedent of this concept is Mae Yokoyama’s solar-paneled necklace (left) she made in 2009. She used solar panels to power LEDs that lit up. This covers the technical aspect that I want to accomplish, and it also shows that solar panels can be the centerpiece of a necklace. Pauline Von Dongen (right) is considered a trailblazer when it comes to solar panels and apparel. She does a tremendous job of creating items where solar panels are the obvious focus on the piece, or where they are more subtle. Her aesthetic and design-thinking was the main inspiration behind soul*ar.
During the prototyping process, I had to consider many different factors: the size of the solar panels, how much energy they can produce, the size of the battery and how much it can store, the amount of LEDs and the energy needed to power them. In addition to considering the hardware capacity of each element, I also had to take into consideration of how I was going to conceal each of these items. Initially, I had envisioned soul*ar being a necklace and sketched out multiple variations, from a statement necklace to a choker, but soon realized this method would make it difficult to conceal the hardware.
Since I had moved away from making a necklace, I needed to find a new form for soul*ar to take. I experimented with form during various stages of prototyping with foam board and clear acrylic and landed on shoulder pads. The bulkier nature of armor-esque should pads made hiding the hardware more manageable, and it carried the metaphor of protection as well.
The first-stage prototype/proof of concept was six solar panels fixed on to acrylic panels linked together resting on polystyrene foam in which the hardware (Arduino microcontroller, rechargeable lithium battery and wires) are enclosed. 
In the Arduino's serial monitor, the UV sensor outputs live readings of the current UV ray intensity and lends a word of advice based on it. The phrases and color of the LED is based on the World Health Organization's UV ray index. 


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