QUESTION FOR KIDS: How fast can your solar car go?
Learn how to harness energy from the sun to propel a car. With this experiment, we’ll build a solar-powered car and find ways to make it run efficiently. Can you imagine driving your own person-sized solar vehicle? What other machines could be powered by the sun?
Materials for this activity:
- Solar Race Car Experiment Kit
- Solar Cell, 0.5 volt, 500 ma (optional)
- Mini Gears Set (optional)
- Mini Pulley Set (optional)
Follow this easy, step-by-step activity:
In this activity, kids will experiment using STEM concepts to design and build their own solar-powered car. They’ll also make different versions to test for maximum power efficiency.
- Design and sketch what you want your car to look like. Start building!
- Use either the rubber bands as a pulley or the gears to transfer energy from the motor to the wheels.
- Power the motor with the solar cell.
- Experiment with different designs and configurations to determine the most efficient use of the solar energy.
A few tips to help you out:
- Hot glue works well to connect parts of the car together.
- Use the battery holder to test your car or for use on a cloudy day.
- The smallest gear or pulley can be pressed onto the axle of the motor.
- Apply some cooking oil to the inside of the gear or pulley before pressing it onto the axle.
- Position the axle square to the racer body to prevent turning and wasted energy.
- Use trial-and-error, play around with different designs and find what works best, like a real scientist!
Go Beyond the Activity
- Which drive system is most effective for your car design: gear drive or pulley drive?
- Can you design a compound gear drive using the largest gear to make your solar racer go even faster?
- Can you design a compound pulley drive system using the largest pulley?
- How would you build an adjustable solar cell mount to optimize the solar cell position for different races?
Download the activity sheet for a formatted and ready-to-print version of this page.