Scaling up to Power Production Let’s use Data to Optimize the Performance of a Solar Cell Array

Design a 50 Year Energy Plan
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Intended Grade Level(s):
Learning Goal(s):

1. Design, build, and refine a system that most effectively converts energy from the sun into electrical energy. 

Lesson Number:
Relevant NGSS PE:
Estimated Activity Length:
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Somewhat similar to the first part of the wind turbine project from Lesson 3, students are tasked with optimizing the performance of a photovoltaic system. This objective both allows students to apply the engineering-design process they absorbed in previous lessons, while also addressing NGSS performance expectation HS-PS4-3 that states:

“Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind the idea that electromagnetic radiation can be described either by a wave model or a particle model, and that for some situations one model is more useful than the other.”

Students meet this standard by using their understanding of solar radiation and position of the sun to inform decision making while designing an effective solar array. 

Other Material(s) Used:
• 4 Vernier Solar Cells of varying voltages • 4 Vernier Labquests, Labquest 2, or GoDirect Sensors • 4 Vernier Variable Loads • 4 Vernier Energy Sensors • Light sources – natural and man-made can work well to compare and contrast power output