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Wednesday, February 01, 2023

STEM Club Spotlight: Helios

UW-Madison club is bringing solar energy to campus.


Are you interested in solar energy and seeking opportunities to learn more? Do you want to make an impact on our campus' sustainability? Helios might be just where you belong.

Helios is a student organization focused on making the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus more renewable and spreading awareness about renewable energy projects in the Madison community.

Since its inception in 2017, Helios has been involved in much of the “behind the scenes'' work on campus solar projects. Attila Veysal, former business lead of Helios, noted that the organization takes an advisory role, doing on-the-ground and theoretical research about solar energy projects, including the solar panels on top of Gordon Avenue Market and the UW-Madison Arboretum. 

Helios most recently completed a project that involved working with UW-Madison transportation services to determine the feasibility of solar powered bus stop shelters. These shelters would include digital displays, giving riders accurate and up-to-date arrival schedules. 

The Helios team, alongside entrepreneurial campus organization Enactus and with support from the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability, embarked on a project to determine if solar was a feasible solution to sustainable bus stops. The team found that by using flat solar panels, 51 of the 66 shelters could be powered throughout the year — even in December, when the sun is out for a scant few hours. 

Thanks to Helios’ report, Transportation Services will start installing solar panels, lights and screens on campus shelters in 2022.

During the 2022-23 school year, one of Helios’ major projects will be a campus wide solar study. 

“We’re doing a theoretical and actual analysis of all the current solar projects that are installed on campus,” said Simon Brooks, president of Helios. “This is to get a sense of how all of campus solar is operating.”

The Helios campus solar study is supported by the university’s Office of Sustainability, which wants to develop a software to see how much solar power is being used on campus, how it is performing in the long term and which areas on campus would benefit from solar power, according to Brooks. 

In fall 2022, Helios will be implementing a new education and outreach team as part of their initiative to teach people about solar energy. 

“A goal of mine is I want the org to have a more educational and outreach perspective,” Brooks stated. 

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This new team will be responsible for digital outreach through social media as well as in-person events and talks. 

Besides engineering and outreach, Helios works to connect its members to opportunities and events — including internships, classes and outreach events — in Madison and beyond. Many of these events, including their solar panel installation watch parties, can be found on Helios’ Facebook or Instagram pages. 

Students interested in joining can contact Helios through social media, the Wisconsin Involvement Network or the fall semester Student Organization Fair.

“We don’t have any pre-reqs,” said Veysall. “[...] other than a real interest and passion for contributing to better environmental practices.”

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