Robert Smith really hates to mow the lawn. I mean, really hates it. So instead of suffering in the heat and getting covered in grass clippings, the 23-year-old engineering graduate from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) built a solar-powered lawn mower that does all the work for him. “I thought, ‘how can I make this more enjoyable?’ I needed to complete a senior project, and this was a really good challenge for myself, to incorporate different technologies and make mowing the lawn easier,” he said.
Smith’s Solar Charged Remote Controlled Electric Lawn Mower (SCRCELM–pronounced “screlm”) is a Black & Decker electric mower fitted with components from an electric wheelchair and powered by two 20-watt solar panels wired to pair of 12V batteries. It can be constructed from materials sourced almost entirely from Lowe’s, RadioShack, eBay and Amazon. Perhaps most importantly, it can be controlled with a remote, while you sit in a lawn chair:
The project is slightly reminiscent of something Rick Moranis would have built in Honey I Shrunk the Kids. But, Smith isn’t just your everyday tinkerer with a degree in computer engineering; he is also something of a video and social media whiz. How many college students do you know that spent their summer break creating an online tutorial showing how to build a solar panel from scratch?
Smith’s website is a wealth of do-it-yourself knowledge, with detailed videos, schematics and parts and tools lists. The SCRCELM project is quite involved; but if you were so inclined, you could build it yourself from the information he provides. There, he tells you everything you need to know–from the size of drill bits to the number of washers you will need.
His instruction videos may not be quite as popular as videos of that Robert Smith, but Smith’s YouTube channel has over 4,000 subscribers, and the introductory video for the SCRCELM project has received over 7,500 views on YouTube since it launched in November.