The 2017 inaugural Synergy Schools Solar Challenge saw Year 6 and Year 8 students battle it out in a model solar car race this week.
More than 500 students from around Perth took part in the inaugural Challenge, a joint initiative between Synergy and the Science Teachers Association of WA (STAWA). Semi-finals occurred last month and the grand finals, run on a 20 metre track at Kings Park, were held on Wednesday.
Solar car kits and curriculum linked support material were provided by Synergy to assist teachers in delivering Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths (STEM) learning outcomes relating to solar energy throughout the first term of this year.
The kits contained a KM 2v 700mA solar panel, a KM F-18FS electric motor, axles, wheels, gear pack, switches, wires and various odds and ends. It was then up to the students to assemble the car in a way to achieve maximum performance. As well as the challenge of building the cars, they need to consider issues such as selecting the best solar panel angle and gear ratio to get the most from their vehicles.
Batteries weren’t allowed to be incorporated into the cars and they needed to race from a standing start; powered only by the sun. Thankfully, the weather looked to be fairly good on the day.
Judging by a recent ABC report, the kids had a ball with the initiative – and perhaps we’ll see a few of the participants pursuing a career in the solar power industry as a result of being inspired by the activity.
“Getting students excited about science has its challenges and this initiative is a fun way for students to learn STEM skills which are vital for Western Australia’s future,” said STAWA President Glenys Leslie in February.
“STEM capabilities are developed when students are challenged to address real-world problems using problem based learning.”
Another Australian event involving model solar cars and schools is the Solar Car Challenge, an annual event held in Victoria that began in 2004.
Engaging Australian school students in solar energy technology in novel ways has taken other forms as well. Another very worthwhile project we’ve covered in the past is at a Queensland primary school where children assemble solar lights to be given to kids in Papua New Guinea.