Friday, 22 April 2016

Solar Power Kits for Kids

We think it's important for kids to learn about solar power. It's Earth Day today so it's a good day for a post about kits that help kids to learn about solar power.

In a previous Earth Day post we explained how solar power works and it's history. (The photovoltaic effect was discovered by a 19 year old which is pretty amazing.)

Why Should Kids Learn about Solar Power?

Obviously we're advocates of kids using technology. Should we feel guilty about all that electricity usage?

My approach is:
  • We have solar panels on our roof so much of the electricity we use at home, including that used for projects on this website, comes from solar power; 
  • It's great to do some unplugged tech activities too;
  • I encourage kids to learn about solar power and other forms of renewable energy. I don't think that solving global warming will come from using less energy, it will come from energy breakthroughs in the future. So let's give humanity the best chance of making those discoveries by educating kids about the technology of renewable energy. 

Using Solar Power Kits Successfully

This is going to be obvious, but solar power kits need the sun to work well! It can be really disappointing to try a project on a dull, overcast day in England ... 

If you live somewhere that's sunny all year round then you won't have to worry too much, but if like us you can't rely on the weather, then you might want to think ahead before you get kids excited about their new solar power kit. 

Most kits do support an alternative power source so that they can still be used in the winter or in the evening, and you can use a lamp to power the solar panels, but kids will be keen to use the power of the sun initially - that's the point! 

Solar Power kits are great for taking outdoors when the sun is shining. Once kids are confident that the solar panel actually works well in good sunlight then you can experiment to see how little sun you can get away with. 

Solar Power Kits for Kids

We've previously written a detailed review of the Solar Recycler Robot kit so check that out as well.

Thames & Kosmos have a great range of science kits for children. This kit helps kids understand how solar power works. You get instructions for building five different solar powered models. Note that the construction pieces are compatible with the rest of the Thames & Kosmos range so you can reuse them in other projects.

We really like the variety of models in this kit, as well as helicopter, there's a moon buggy and a stag beetle.

Snap Circuits have been bringing out excellent updated kits in recent years including this Alternative Energy themed set. Kids can learn lots about electronic circuits with the set while also learning about renewable energy.

The set includes a solar panel, but we really like that you also get a hand crank - a really concrete way for kids to understand about energy!

We've reviewed Snap Circuits before, and the quality and educational projects are great. The Alternative Energy set includes 125 projects. It's a great format for kids who love to carefully follow instructions.

The SolarLab 1.0 is a really professional and grown-up looking kit which is aimed at children aged 12+. This is a comprehensive kit which comes with a curriculum that covers the history and theory of solar power as well as including 10 projects for tweens and teens to work through.

There's a multimeter included in the set which can be used for other electronics projects too. This is a well put together kit which would be great for teenagers or families who want to learn together. You can also build a solar powered battery charger which is a great feature.

If you're able to take a more home-made approach with investigating solar power with your kids then you should take a look at Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown: A Mystery with Sun-Powered Gadgets You Can Build Yourself.

This is a story book that includes fab science projects that can be built using easy to get hold of materials. The hard cover edition of this book is available for pre-order now for release in May 2016, just in time for the sun!

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown is the latest in a series of great tech-themed adventures with practical projects so check out the rest of the series too.

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