Salt River High School science students got an unexpected surprise as retired engineers came to the school teach a four-day course on how to build solar cars. The group of volunteer engineers came from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The four-day course included two days of lecture in which the engineers educated the students about the fundamentals of electricity and solar energy.
“We teach the students about voltage, watts, amps and how the cells work. It’s all basic electrical engineering,” said retired engineer Don Cottrell.
On the third day, the students learned how to make their own solar cars using materials such as small solar panels, a small DC motor, laminated board, masking tape, paper clips and little wheels. The solar panel acts like a battery that develops voltage and current, and then uses the solar panel to energize the DC motor. The motor is geared to turn the wheel. This is the principle behind the solar car.
On the final day, the students went out to the basketball courts to race their solar cars. “It was interesting. I didn’t know some of these things. It was fun and creative,” said Salt River High School student Brandalyn Myore about the solar car lesson. “It was something new that I got to learn; I didn’t expect to learn all of this.”
Cottrell said, “It started out kind of slow because we were lecturing the first two days. But when we started building the car, the students got excited. We like to volunteer, and we enjoyed working with the students.”
The volunteer engineers travel to different schools to teach students about electricity and solar energy. General Dynamics and IEEE donate all of the equipment for the program.