Sabino Canyon visitors can now purchase shuttle tickets from a solar-powered kiosk designed by University of Arizona engineering students.

In March, TEP crews transported and delivered the kiosk to the recreation area’s overflow parking lot.

Starting earlier this month, the kiosk began selling tickets to the Canyon Crawler, the electric shuttle that TEP helped launch in 2019. Shuttle tickets had been unavailable at the overflow lot, which is in a remote area with no electric facilities.

“This unique ticketing booth will help serve visitors and enhance their experience, while being sensitive to this beautiful natural area,” said Steven Eddy, TEP Government Relations Manager. Eddy has overseen TEP’s involvement with the shuttle, including a $1.5 million contribution and an additional $1 million interest-free loan to purchase the five emission-free electric trams.

UArizona engineering seniors designed the solar energy system to power the kiosk as part of the University’s College of Engineering’s Interdisciplinary Capstone projects in 2020.

Since 2014, TEP has partnered with the school to help seniors complete their capstone projects, which can be either practical or theoretical, said Christopher Lynn, Supervisor of Automation, Metering and Protection Engineering, who oversees TEP’s program.

Other local companies and businesses support the projects as a way to help with research and development and tap local talent, said Ana Bustamante, Senior Director of Transmission & Distribution Engineering.

Keeping interruption to a minimum while generating renewable energy was critical, since the parking lot, which is usually open October to April, is in an environmentally sensitive area. TEP and the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), which oversees the nonprofit group that operates the shuttle, handed over the concept to the students.

“They brought the rest of the solution to the table,” Lynn said. “Everything else about it, they developed.”

PAG donated a metal container, while TEP supplied solar panels. TEP’s Outside Services team helped move the container to the Irvington campus, where students could work on the project, called the Mobile Utility Connection, during the 2019-20 school year.

Colter Ogden, the student project lead, who has since been hired as a TEP Transmission Interconnection Engineer, said he was immediately excited about the project. He joined the university’s engineering program with hopes of working in renewable energy, which he now does at TEP.

“A lot of what we do in engineering school is going to be theoretical,” Ogden said. “The chance to take the knowledge that you develop over four years and put it into practice is super-rewarding.”

Two other team members also have since been hired by TEP: Ilse Morales Duarte, as a Supply Side Planner, and Spencer Gross, as an Operations Planning Engineer.

“The whole company really just gets behind these student projects,” Lynn said. “I want to thank all the people who helped this team along the way. This is just the kind of teamwork and innovation that aligns with our vision as a company.”

The project won awards during a May 2020 online ceremony honoring the UA Capstone projects, including placing first for “Innovation in Energy Production, Supply or Use” and the Frank Broyles Engineering Ethics Award.

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