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Solar Energy in Class 8

From reducing the use of plastic water bottles to recycling food waste, Chapin looks for opportunities to promote sustainability inside and outside the classroom. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a visit to Dr. Prasad Akavoor’s 8th grade Science class revealed a room full of energy conscious individuals.

As students began to trickle into Room 810, Dr. Akavoor turned their attention to a video displayed on the board. Once everyone was settled in and the chatter dwindled, the video commenced.

Students giggled as their peers’ faces filled the screen. “These are my students from last year,” Dr. Akavoor explained. The current Class 8 students listened attentively to their virtual friends, who discussed the very project they had just begun – creating solar energy towers!

This assignment, undertaken annually in Class 8, requires students to build solar towers using thin pieces of wood, a solar panel, a motor and a small fan. The objective is to find the most energy efficient way to increase the speed of the fan and produce a high number of rotations. 

“We simulate the sun with heat lamps,” Dr. Akavoor explained. “We test all different factors and based on those results, we’ll build a modified version,” added a student. The various test factors include: the angle of the lamp, the use of color filters and the distance between the light and the tower.

Although still in the early stages, one group had already begun testing their research. In the center of the room, the group of four encircled a lab table. Using a lamp and a ‘smart timer,’ it was revealed that their fan was powered at 928 turns per minute. “Wow! We almost tripled our initial number!” exclaimed an excited group member. 

Meanwhile, the other groups were deep in their investigative process with questions floating across the room. “Should we increase the intensity of the light bulb?” “Should an extra solar panel be added?” “Maybe we can 3-D print something?”

“Don’t talk too loud or other groups will steal your ideas,” joked Dr. Akavoor, who circled the room to check students’ progress and address any questions.

One group created a detailed sketch of their tower, with aluminum foil drawn on top in a wide V shape. Notes scribbled along the sides read, “No color filter – results were better,” and, along with arrows pointing to the foil, “Light will be reflected,” which is an addition that will yield more energy.

Despite the attentiveness that this project requires, there was also a sufficient amount of fun! There were excited cheers when fans hit a high rotation and lively deliberations over possible names for their towers, including “The Tin Man,” and “Team Cucumber.” 

By the end of this forward-thinking project, students will not only have ample knowledge of renewable energy sources but an “engineering notebook” full of their thought processes, ideas and research. They will also create a pitch video for their classmates and teachers, similar to what they had seen at the beginning of class.

Although all had the same objective, each team brought a unique and creative outlook, leading to diverse design outcomes. 

“They have such sharp minds,” noted Dr. Akavoor as the talented scholars made their exits.