Salmon Arm students harness the sun to make solar powered cars

Jaylynn Anderson carefully puts a rubber ring on one of the wheels for her car at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)
River Wright attaches the wires from the solar panel to the electric motor on her car at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)
Hannah Sato and Aliana Torrie check the parts in their solar powered car kit in their classroom at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)
Landyn Gouger focuses on sticking an electric motor to the base of his car at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)
Neil Caves demonstrates the next step in the car making process at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)
Nolan Walter, Davin Lawson, Elias Rands and Carter Schmidt race their newly built cars outside at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)
Aliana Torrie and Landyn Gouger watch as their cars speed off at Hillcrest Elementary on Tuesday, June 11. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)

A group of students at Hillcrest Elementary School has learned to harness the sun’s energy.

The learning came in the form of a workshop where they had the opportunity to make their own solar powered cars.

Neil Caves, a retired teacher librarian and director of Shuswap Solar Energy Society, taught Tyra Menzies’ Grade 4-5 class how to make a small solar powered car from the wheels up.

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The students formed groups of two and each group was given a kit which contained the car’s components. Then, with detailed instruction from Caves along with help from hot glue guns, sandpaper and scissors, the cars started to take shape.

There was problem-solving and troubleshooting to be done along the way – a valuable lesson on its own, but Caves’ intended teaching point was one of precision.

“It’s crucial for kids to understand how accuracy is important,” said Caves. “If you don’t measure things accurately or line things up accurately your car will just go in circles.”

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Once the cars were completed the students took them to the track, a paved part of the playground with access to plenty of sunlight. Sometimes the cars wouldn’t budge, then one of the children would ask their friend to move so their shadow wasn’t covering the solar panel.

“The main thing I would like these kids to take away from this is how solar energy actually works and how the solar panels work,” Caves said.

The pre-packaged parts used by the students were put together by SunWind Solar on Salt Spring Island.

Caves hopes to take the workshop to middle school and high school students as well.


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

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