Saturday, July 19, 2014

Florida Solar Energy Center

One of our other recent field trips was to the Florida Solar Energy Center.  (this is a good website, there is even curricula on there to use for schools and homeschooling for all different age levels)   We started out by watching a couple video clips and having a lecture about what the Energy Center does.  They also showed us some models of solar panels and solar ovens.   
One thing I found interesting was a simple small invention that helps people figure out if water has boiled or not, when its put in a solar oven/heater to boil out the "bad stuff".   Previously the only way to tell was to sit and watch it, which could take a very long time.   It was simply a sealed glass oval bubble, with a bit of wax inside and a string on each side.  You put it in the water, wax side up.  When the water boils, the wax melts and goes to the bottom.   So when you check on it, if the wax is at the bottom, it boiled at some point and is safe to drink.  If the wax is still at the top, it hasn't boiled.   So simple yet very useful.   


One of the solar ovens was set up outside, along with 3 jars of water.  One with cling film on it went in the oven, and outside sat a cling film jar and one with an open top.   Thermometer in each one to monitor the progress.   

While they waited, the kids broke into teams and were given motors, solar panels and a meter to measure energy.  They had to work together to assemble it to make the fan turn, and then switch the wires to see what it did (the fan spun the other direction).   They also measured how much power their panel had.  

Next, a "game" was set up.   The kids were told that collectivly they were a town, wanting to build a solar movie theater.   Their meter had to read 500 to power the theater.    Each team had $20 to spend.   There was a "shop" with different types of solar panel, as well as foil, mirrors, clear plastic colored paddles, a big lens, wires, and some other stuff.  Some items were over $20, but the panel they had was worth $10, but the big lens was $60!   They were allowed to buy, sell and trade as much as they wanted. 
The other catch was that they needed to use as little $ as possible because the town also wanted to build a pool (for $100 or something).   
Various teams figured out how to make their meters read 500, but it wasn't until the end that the kids all figured out that they only needed ONE team to make the meter read 500 (there was only one theater for the town) and that they should combine the rest of their money to build the swimming pool.   So there was a little extra lesson in their besides working with solar power (work together too!)
Great concept for a game, get them all thinking and working together.  

In the midst of all of this, they checked on the water, and it had boiled!   It didn't take long at all for the solar oven to warm up the water to a boil.     I'd like to do a unit on solar power with Levi - the Solar Center will loan out supplies as well as help with ideas, and they also sell supplies too, so we have a good resource to do it!   I've seen solar ovens built in many different ways, Levi and I once had rosemary potatoes baked in one, yum! 

Afterwards, we stopped at Rockledge Gardens to eat our picnic lunch.   They have a little playground, and they had sunflower seeds the kids could plant, so they all did that.    (and for some reason they all wore yellow!)

They also have a butterfly garden in a screened in room.  The kids spent forever in here, I had to drag them out because I was getting too hot, a little too much solar energy for me!     Its a lot of fun to look at all of the butterflies.

Miss T had one land on her head!   

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