Solar Energy: Racing with the Sun
This TechXcite: Discover Engineering! module introduces kids to ways in which solar panels may be used to generate electricity through the design of a solar car. Ways in which engineers can design more environmentally friendly cars are a very important challenge in engineering today. While it is unlikely that a car would be powered entirely by solar panels, an electric car with batteries combined with solar charging could become popular in the future. In this module, kids explore how solar panels generate electricity in different lights by measuring the maximum voltage they can create. Then, they apply this knowledge in building and optimizing a small solar car.
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Additional Resources click items below to expand
Junior Solar Sprint Competition
If you’re interested, you could utilize different solar kits and participate in the Junior Solar Sprint competition sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL). The links below provide more information.
This kit is the one used in the Junior Solar Sprint competition. The solar cars tend to run a little bit faster, but assembling the gears is more difficult than the kits used by TechXcite.
Voltage / Electricity
This Wikipedia site provides definitions and background information. The site also includes a great hydraulic (water) analogy for voltage. This analogy is helpful with understanding voltage and other electrical concepts. Also, included on the site is a list of additional key concepts with references and reading suggestions.
This site is similar to the Wikipedia site above and provides definitions, background information, common units and even the water analogy for electricity. This site is a little easier to read and understand.
This Wikipedia site provides definitions, background information and applications of solar vehicles on land, in water and in space. The article even has a section about solar bicycles including their advantages, how they are made and reference to the first quadricycle built. At the very bottom of the site is a table with interesting key concepts and their Wikipedia links relating to photovoltaics. For the Wikipedia site focusing solely on Solar Cars go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_car.
This site is great for background information on how solar-powered cars work and some information about the history of their development. A highlight of this site is the images of developed and concept electric cars.
Both of these sites provide information about the current solar car events/races that are occurring in the States and around the world. Also included is information, statistics and images from past design, building, and driving competitions.
Solar Cells / Panels
Both of these Wikipedia sites provide definitions and background information. Also, the site sites include efficiency and cost information.
This site provides great explanations on what solar panels do and how they work. There is a 22-minute video that explains how solar panels can generate electricity and includes great graphics showing the chemistry involved.
This curriculum is currently being piloted and has not been approved by National 4-H Council. If you have suggestions or would like more information, please contact us at email@example.com.