William Surles, Jack Baum, Stephen Johnson, Abby Watrous, Eszter Horanyi, Schaefer Zarske, Malinda, University of Colorado; Boulder
Activity takes about one 45-min class period. Additional materials such as mini PV panels ($10-30)and a multimeter ($10) are required.Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»
See how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Science and Engineering Practices
About Teaching Climate Literacy
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
4.2 Human use of energy is subject to limits and constraints.
6.5 Social and technological innovation.
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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy |
- Activity does not specify what zenith angle at which to place the lamp if using a lamp instead of the sun. If using a lamp, students could go outside and measure the zenith angle of the sun at that moment. This can also foster a conversation about how the sun's angle varies over the course of a day and over the course of a year. Here's one article that explains more about calculating the best slope angle and azimuth (position) angle for solar panels: http://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/12/what-is-the-best-angle-for-solar-panels/.
- Using the knowledge and skills gained here, students can design a theoretical solar array for the school building, taking into account the geographic location, roof configuration, and weather. This activity may be combined with Renewable Energy Living Lab: The Bright Idea.
- Safety issues and troubleshooting tips are included in the activity.
About the Science
- Activity addresses how the orientation of a photovoltaic (PV) panel, relative to the sun, affects the efficiency of the panel.
- In this activity, students get hands-on practice experimenting with the efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels, by measuring the current produced by a solar panel while varying its angle and position. Students take measurements, plot their data, and then use this information to consider the best design for a solar array.
- Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.
About the Pedagogy
- During the course of this activity, students reinforce the following scientific and quantitative skills:
- using a protractor to measure angles,
- recording and plotting data,
- applying the concepts of electrical circuits, voltage, current and power.
- The instructional design is very straightforward and assessment ideas are included. Ideas for extension activities are also provided.
- Activity is structured with a student investigation guide and worksheet; groups of 3 students have their own PV panel and multimeter setup to manipulate as they work through the investigation. Educator version with answers is provided.
- Introduction text is great for new teachers because it shows exactly how to lead the discussion and frame the topic.
Technical Details/Ease of Use
- This activity is very straightforward and is clearly documented and described. Student guides, worksheets, troubleshooting tips, and an answer key are included in both Word and PDF forms.