Department of Mechanical Engineering

Brigham Young University 

Provo, UT 84602

(801) 422-2625

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Phenomenal Solar Power, Itty-Bitty Storage Space

See the stop-motion animation highlighting the NASA-funded research of CMR PhD student Shannon Zirbel


“Mechanical engineering PhD student Shannon A. Zirbel (BS ’10, MS ’11) is shaking things up with a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship worth up to $198,000. For her second summer now, Zirbel will ship out to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, home of the Mars rover team, to apply origami in space.” – Amanda Kae Fronk, BYU Magazine.


Zirbel has come up with an innovative idea that folds a massive, 25-meter solar array into a mere 2.8-meter design. While still generating an astounding 150 kilowatts of solar energy, it can now fit into a space roughly just a tenth of the size it will spread to in outer space. Having started with just folding paper in a lab, Zirbel’s hands-on approach created this solar masterpiece that has caught the attention of even the Air Force because of its state-of-the-art use of technology. Zirbel is shooting for the stars with all of her hard work and research that has landed her this prestigious position among the aerospace engineer elites of NASA.

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