Grade Levels

Mechanical Engineering: Solar Vehicles

Mechanical Engineering: Solar Vehicles

Students explore solar energy, solar cells, motors, and gears. Students test solar cells to determine the amount of voltage and current produced by solar cells in different levels of light and different angles of the solar panel to the light source. Students also test the affects of motor types and gear ratios on a vehicle. Students use what they learn to design, build, and test solar vehicles to meet specific criteria. Equipment includes light meters, multimeters, solar panels, gears, and other materials required for building solar vehicles.

Lesson 1: Intro to Solar Energy

Students explore properties of solar energy and light. Students explore and measure light intensity. Students determine how the angle of incidence affects the intensity of light. Students record and analyze related data. Students explore how solar energy can be used as an energy source for various applications. Students write a report explaining the uses and limitation of solar energy as an energy source.

Lesson 2: Intro to Mechanical Engineering

Students explore the history of mechanical engineering and science concepts related to mechanical engineering. Students complete worksheets related to the material in the lesson. Students write reports over the history of mechanical engineering, the science of mechanical engineering, and careers related to mechanical engineering. The teacher selects which and how many reports the students will write.

Lesson 3: Solar Panels

Students test and compare solar panels to determine the amount of electrical output in various intensities of light. Students connect the solar panels to small electrical motors to determine the required light intensity for each panel to power the motors.

Lesson 4: Motors and Gears

Students compare two different electrical motors to determine how each can be used to power gear systems. Students also explore gears and gear ratios. Students test various gear combinations to determine their affects on rotational speed and power requirements.

Lesson 5: Solar Vehicle Construction and Testing

Students construct a solar vehicle based on given specifications. Students test their solar vehicles as original designed and constructed. Students record this data for later comparison. Students make modifications to various aspects of the vehicle and test the affect of these modifications on the vehicles performance. Based on their test results students report findings and conclusions related to what affects the design modifications have on the vehicles performance.

Lesson 6: Solar Vehicle Design and Race

Students design and construct a solar vehicle intended to travel specified distance as quickly as possible. Students test their initial design and make modifications to improve the performance of their vehicle. Students finally race their vehicle against other vehicles made by students in the class. Students create and present an engineering report including the design of their vehicle, test data, final results, and ways their vehicle could be improved.

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