There are few solar energy experimenting kits for children available. The designers of these kits had to solve several problems:
- which kind of solar cell, which power
- connections between cell and motor or other functions
- which kind of motors, resistance
- which kind of constructions, things to be made
- age group of the children
In the kits you can see solutions for these problems depending on the age group the children are in.
There are some very sturdy connections ( Solar Generation Box), some very feeble ( 6 in 1 eductational solar kit), and some outright technical, with a breadboard (Velleman Solar Energy Expeiment Kit).
Picture of the experimenting kits can be found at:
6 in 1 Educational Solar Kit
I bought four of these sets. Two were the same, so I have three different experimenting kits to compare. These kits can then be compared to the solar toys and gadgets.
The most funny construction of this kit is the solar car (very comparable to the ones you can buy for 2-3 euro’s):
6 in 1 Educational Solar Kit is for Children of age 8+. It offers 6 toys, which you can construct from a few sets of plastic parts. It looks really cheap. The solar cell works at 1.5 V and the motor is tiny. The things you can construct make sometimes the wrong suggestions: Powering a windmill with a solar cell is a bit the wrong way around. The motor makes terrible noise when driven by the solar cell. The resistance of the motor is 7.5 Ohm. 13 euro’s at conrad.nl.
But I also bought this kind of set at dx.com for 6 dollars:
The most funny experiment of this kit was the solar musical instrument.
The Velleman kit indicates age 13+. It offers 10 experiments. These experiments are very electronically minded. There is even a programmed chip, which can be used in several configurations, depending on the PIN’s you connect. The experiments are not the usual: there is a solar musical instrument, a chirping cricket, and the solar cell is even used to detect IR Remote signals, which is quite inventive. Fun, but very technical.The solar cell delivers 3.2V.
The code of the microcontroller could not be found, which is a pity. On the other hand, being a PIC controller, you need a special PIC programmer for flashing anyway. (I am AVR minded 🙂
Around 20 euro’s. http://www.Conrad.nl:
SOLAR GENERATION KOSMOS
The Solar Generation is for age 8+ children. It is a big box containing a sturdy motor and a large amount of construction parts. It is a Lego like set. (Of course not compatible, but you could do some 3D printing to make in between parts.) Using the motor you can build cranes and pushing vehicles. The booklet explains in detail about cogwheels and connections. The construction part of the set is as important as the motor. The solar cell runs at 1.5 V. The resistance of the motor is 13 Ohm.
You can get it at amazon for 130 euro’s, although I think I bought it at conrad.nl for 60 euro (but I can be mistaken…a few years ago).
Of course these kits are not really providing energy in the most efficient way. It is more meant as example, as a way of making children sensitive for solar power solutions.
Seeing the attention for solar experimenting kits, the question is if one other solution: muscle energy, dynamo torch like also has experimenting kits. Somehow this seems les magical than solar power, but certainly in Holland the sun is not often around.
A next experiment could be to look for the dynamo torch as energy source and if this provides enough for the toys to make these work. It will be a nice way to compare the two ways of generating energy.
Most kits are for the age group 8+.
Studio Roes with the Solly System offers a set for younger children:
This means it is mainly aimed at discovery. This set includes muscle energy.