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Schools Using Solar Power

Implementing Solar Power

Kids Explore Renewable Energy
at Helena Community Works Camp

"Wow! That is so cool!" "What happens if I do this?"

By Sondra Hines Ė Community Works
During the week of July 15, a group of children ranging in age from 6 to 12 gathered under the Big Yellow Tent next to the Great Northern Carousel in Helena to explore renewable energy.

Most of our week was devoted to the power of the sun and solar energy. We began our exploration by building solar ovens out of pizza boxes, which we then used all week for cooking various delectable treats, such as hot dogs, símores, and quesadillas. We also tried to answer the age-old question: "Can you fry an egg on the sidewalk?" We tried various methods for getting those eggs to cook from putting them directly on the concrete to placing them under glass in a cast iron skillet. Iím sad to say we were not successful. We had a great time, but there were no eggs to be eaten.

Tim Ranf of Pioneer Technical Service in Helena assisted throughout the week and created a large solar cooker that we used for making chocolate chip cookies.

We were excited to meet Ray Schott, educator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Ray spent one morning with us explaining how the sun can make electricity. We dramatized the process, which really helped bring the magic to life and bring understanding to us all. We set up a solar-powered water fountain loaned to us from Chris Borton at Sage Mountain Center as well as a solar fan loaned from Tony Boniface of Independent Power Systems. The kids were fascinated by the fact that they could affect the flow of water by shadowing the photovoltaic panel in some way. Ray showed us how to use a voltmeter to see if electricity was flowing. He also assisted the kids in hooking up their own photovoltaic (PV) cell to a small DC motor. The group spent over an hour making fans and other spinning creations with their systems.

The big project of the week involved building solar vehicles out of plastic, wood, rubber bands, dc motors and PV cells. This was a fun and challenging project Ė one that everyone succeeded in. The group gained first-hand knowledge about maintaining good wire connections, construction and design stability, PV cell placement for most efficient performance and other variables that might increase or decrease performance. We found that PV cells donít work as well if they get too hot and that a bigger DC motor would speed up our time trials a bit.

After constructing a darkroom out of cardboard and duct tape, participants made cyanotypes. Cyanotypes are blueprint photographs made using light sensitive fabric and the power of the sun. This is a truly magical activity as the images appear before your very eyes while the fabric is exposed to sunlight.

In extending our exploration of the sunís power, we learned that it is also responsible for the winds that blow, the coal and other fossil fuels we burn, AND the rain that falls, which all contribute to the energy we use in our daily lives.

The group then went on to explore another form of renewable energy by focusing on wind. We learned about wind turbines and wind anemometers from Mark Hines, an energy engineer for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. We then made our own anemometers that illustrated to us in a simple way the speed of the wind. We built wind turbines out of straws, dowels, cork, wooden beads and paper that could do work such as lifting a small plastic toy using only the power of the wind.

The participants were turned on by the possibilities of renewable energy and anxious to experience more. We hope to be able to offer many exciting opportunities such as this and more through the Museum of Exploration and Discovery now being developed in Helena.

Thanks to all who participated and assisted in making the camp a success and to NCAT for loaning us Ray and sharing our work on their website.

Camp Photos

Using a votage meter Completed solar-powered car Solar cooker Solar water pump charlie1.jpg (55986 bytes) harlanally2.jpg (60107 bytes) Lacy and Ally making a solar cooker Learning about solar power Hands-on help from instructor Ray Schott Tim Ranf instructing campers

Energy Smart Schools
A project of the U.S. Department of Energy's Rebuild America Project, Energy Smart Schools focuses on helping schools use energy more wisely. Website includes links to teaching resources, success stories, news and events, and more.

Solar Matters I, II, and III
These three online solar energy science units, developed by the Florida Solar Energy Center, are intended to help students in grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 learn about solar energy through a variety of activities.

Schools Going Solar
Did you know that many schools across the country are equipped with solar energy systems that not only provide solar electricity, hot water, good quality lighting and other benefits to the school building, but also help students augment their math and science studies, and even help them stay healthier and earn better grades overall? Visit the Schools Going Solar website operated by Interstate Renewable Energy Council. The site features a comprehensive list of links and on-line real-time data for solar schools. You can also read the project's monthly newsletter and find more resources on solar schools.

Watts on Schools
A project of three electric utilities, Watts on Schools is installing solar systems on schools in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Website provides information on the host schools, equipment, education activities, and more.


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Solar in Schools

Residental Solar Electric Demonstration Project

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