Building a Solar Helicopter

For Christmas our eldest daughter got a kit to make a solar powered helicopter. Today she constructed it.

It was fairly straightforward to construct with clear diagrams for putting the pieces together - reminding me lots of lego instructions and how great it is for kids to learn to follow these kinds of instructions with the 3D diagrams, rotating them the right way around to fit each piece correctly -  a valuable skill they may use when they grow up and buy flat packed furniture!

The helicopter didn't take long to construct and once in the sun, the blades spun perfectly!

This, together with the solar bugs
 and solar lights we have in the garden,
 led us to question how solar power actually works. With a little help from Google we found a great explanation here.

In short - solar cells have two layers of silicone, one treated to remove some electrons, the other treated to add electrons. As the sun hits the layers, the electrons move from the crowded layer to the one with more space, then bumping into other electrons and causing them to move and flow, so creating an electric current!  So simple.

Silicone is special in this way as most materials just heat when the sun hits them (the electrons vibrate) but in silicone the electrons actually move when the sun hits them which is why it is used in solar panels.

For such a simple and straightforward clean energy source, it is crazy that we aren't using it more. Especially considering these trivia facts that we found (source):

The Earth receives more energy from the sun in an hour than is used in the entire world in one year

It would take less than 1% of the Earth's land area covered in solar panels to supply all of the world's electricity needs.

For a simple kit, it created a lot of interest and discussion about solar power, which we will definitely be exploring more!  It also led to interest in plants using solar power too - in the form of photosynthesis, which I'm sure will lead to more experiments and learning too!

In 2016, we are aiming to 'try something new' every week. This is our new thing for week 1 of the year.
Will you join us and try something new each week? It could be a food you've never tried, a game you've never played or perhaps a place you've never visited. Each week we'll share here what new thing we try.
We'd love to hear what new thing you've tried this week - leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.

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