To see descriptions of all available curriculum by grade level, click here. To download a PDF of all available units, click here.

Solar Car Engineering Challenge Unit

Grades:
6-8
Description:
Students will build a solar car using instructions provided (Sol Run). They will take measurements of their car and then test to see how fast it can travel a 3m track. After students obtain their initial results they will research how to improve the car’s top...
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Learning Goal(s):
After the completion of this lesson students will be able to: • Describe how solar cars work • Accurately record and measure data • Use data to propose changes to experimental designs • Research a topic • Complete a full engineering assignment • Explain pros/cons of various prototypes • Work successfully within a group to accomplish a specific task • Brainstorm various ideas
Author:
Todd Freiboth
Estimated Activity Length:
40 min

Gears vs. Pulleys on Solar Cars

Grades:
4-6
Unit:
Lesson Number:
1
Description:
Students will design an investigation to test differences between solar vehicles. This is an excellent follow-up lesson to the solar boat activity or any other activity in which students have already experimented with other types of solar vehicles. However,...
Energy Content:
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Learning Goal(s):
Students will design an investigation to test differences between solar vehicles. They will make claims based on backing evidence, without having directly tested their vehicles before this point. They will use background knowledge regarding pulleys and gears in order to begin the design process. Students will determine which specific design they will be moving forward with for the next lesson.
Pedagogy & Practice:
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:
Author:
Carol Patrick
Relevant NGSS PE:
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
30 min

Solar Cars Science Investigation

Grades:
4-6
Unit:
Lesson Number:
2
Description:
Students will design a science investigation to test solar car with a pulley or with a variety of gear sizes. In the previous lesson, they were introduced to the different types of systems that can be employed on their car. In this lesson they will use the “...
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More Details Less Details
Learning Goal(s):
Students will design an investigation to test solar vehicles. They will determine which particular materials they will use in the testing of their chosen format. Students will allow for redesign to take place by determining variables that can be manipulated in a measurable format. Students will determine data that will be useful to collect in the testing of their vehicle design.
Author:
Carol Patrick
Relevant NGSS PE:
Estimated Activity Length:
50 min

Build Solar Cars

Grades:
4-6
Unit:
Lesson Number:
3
Description:
Students will build their solar vehicles. There are many options for them to do this, depending on the specific variables hoping to be tested following the construction and material-selection process. Students will be given the opportunity to try out multiple...
Energy Content:
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Learning Goal(s):
Students will construct a geared solar car, a pulley-system solar car, or both. Students will make verbal predictions about the outcomes and viabilities of different types of solar cars. Students will pinpoint the independent, dependent, and control variables in their solar car testing process.
Author:
Carol Patrick
Relevant NGSS PE:
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
50 min
Solar Car Race

Collect Data...Then Compare and Contrast

Grades:
4-6
Unit:
Lesson Number:
4
Description:
Students will race different iterations of solar cars: geared and pulley-system cars using varying gear ratios. Students will have the opportunity to make predictions, record data, and explain the results centered on the selection of these different variables...
Energy Content:
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Learning Goal(s):
Students will:Compare and contrast forces acting on the system by examining the results of the solar car races.Explain the mechanics of gear ratios and demonstrate the most useful ratio to use when constructing solar cars.Explain the benefits of employing a pulley-system in their car construction. Students will understand the importance of selecting measurable, specific variables to compare in their data collection process in order to make evidence-based claims.
Author:
Carol Patrick
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
1 hour

Analyze Data and Draw Conclusions

Grades:
4-6
Unit:
Lesson Number:
5
Description:
Students have performed the investigation and will now analyze their data. They will accomplish this through a journaling activity that requires them to use the data collected from the actual races. The will refer to sentence frames in order to make...
Energy Content:
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More Details Less Details
Learning Goal(s):
Students will determine how differences between solar cars affected their functionality. Students will make claims based off of quantitative and qualitative data. Students will engage in scientific talk based off of their own observations when constructing and testing solar cars. Students will complete a journaling activity that outlines their processes relating to making conclusions.
Author:
Carol Patrick
Relevant NGSS PE:
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
1 hour
Solar Mobile

Solar Mobile Design Challenge Unit Plan

Grades:
6-8
Description:
This unit involves students learning about transferring solar energy to small motors, exploring the center of gravity and testing light sources (including the sun). The culminating engineering design project gives students the chance to pull together their...
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Learning Goal(s):
Students will design circuits using various solar panels in order to power motors with propellers. Students will learn about solar energy transfer in order to power the motors on their solar aircraft.Students will research an aircraft and draw an outline of the aircraft onto foam board. Students will explore the concept of center of gravity. Students will test the efficiency of various light sources (incandescent, fluorescent, LED, halogen) for usage by a PV cell.Students will use their prior testing results and knowledge to engineer a solar-powered mobile. Students will work to transfer the most energy from the solar panels considering all the tested variables in order to power the fastest, most efficient mobile.Students will demonstrate and explain why their solar mobile should be chosen for the solar mobile display in the children’s museum. 
Author:
Kristy Schneider
Relevant NGSS PE:
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
0 sec
Solar Mobile

Introducing the Solar Mobile Design Challenge

Grades:
6-8
Lesson Number:
1
Description:
This lesson is aimed to engage students and build excitement for their future engineering design challenge of building the fastest Solar Powered Mobile. Through multi-media resources, Students will encounter real life solar aircrafts and a room-sized Solar...
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More Details Less Details
Learning Goal(s):
Students will be introduced to solar aircraft. Students will form and write questions about solar aircraft into their Engineering Notebooks setting the stage for future questions.Students will be introduced to a room-sized solar mobile and add additional questions to their engineering notebook.Students will be introduced to the engineering design scenario. 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:
Author:
Kristy Schneider
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
1 hour
Solar Mobile

Exploring Circuits and Optimum Power

Grades:
6-8
Lesson Number:
2
Description:
This lesson is an exploratory learning cycle that will give the instructor input as to where students are in their understanding of circuits and also scaffolds student learning. This lesson starts by engaging students by using an Energy Stick. Then, students...
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More Details Less Details
Learning Goal(s):
Students build series circuits using “grain of wheat bulb” and LEDs powered by various low voltage solar panels. Students build parallel circuits using grain of wheat and LED bulbs powered by various low voltage solar panels. Students demonstrate and draw the energy transfer using solar energy. Students draw a circuit diagram of their final optimal circuit. Students design an optimal circuit model that will be used in their final project. 
Author:
Kristy Schneider
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
3 hours
Solar Mobile

Exploring Center of Gravity

Grades:
6-8
Lesson Number:
3
Description:
Since the concept Center of Gravity (mass) is a key factor in a mobile, students will participate in some activities to help them experience and understand this principle so it can be applied to their final Solar Mobile design. This lesson starts with a...
Energy Content:
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More Details Less Details
Learning Goal(s):
Students will observe a discrepant event and write down questions about what they observed. Students will participate in a variety of activities using a meter stick in order to experience and learn about center of gravity.Students will find the center of gravity of an irregular shaped paper object by using a plumb line. Students will apply the concept of Center of Gravity and find the center of their solar aircraft that is to be used on their solar mobile. 
Author:
Kristy Schneider
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
2 hours