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Students harness power of sun
Eastside Elementary fifth-graders learn from solar-powered car kits.
By Paulette Lash Ritchie, Times Correspondent
Published February 28, 2008
BROOKSVILLE - The cloudy sky did little to contribute to the success of the solar-powered car practice runs Feb. 20, but the Eastside Elementary School fifth-graders seemed happy just to be outside.
Allen Noble and Stan Beeman teach the inclusion class, which includes age typical and special education students. Beeman, 60, is the exceptional student education teacher.
The two received a grant from Progress Energy of Florida to teach their 20 students about energy sources. They bought kits for each child to construct simple, solar-powered cars.
The cars are small and consist of two wooden axles with four wheels, a rubber band, a platform, a small electric motor, a 2-inch by 2-inch solar panel and wires to connect it to the motor. The students put them together.
The lessons Noble, 54, and Beeman planned to cover included solar energy, motion, friction, operation of an electric motor and "having them see the importance of green energy," Noble said.
The cars stayed at school for a while so the teachers could have the students experiment with them. For example, say the cars all set off at the same time, but one went a little faster than the others. What would make that one faster?
At one point, Beeman said, a car was moving along the ground and a student put his foot out to see if he could stop it. His leg's shadow blocked out the light and the car stopped before it reached him. "Every child knew why it stopped," Beeman said.
The next step is for the students to take the cars home to modify them. They can build frames or they might try to work out a way to make their cars go faster. Plus, this is a way to get parents involved. In March, there will be a race with the modified solar cars.
Rachael McConnell, 12, shared what the project has taught her. "I've learned if you switch the plugs, it'll go backwards," she said. When she does her modification, she said she wants to try to get it to go upside down.
Courtney Smith, 11, plans to make her car look like a dragon, since her classroom has been dubbed the Toy Dragons. She said the project "is fun and it helps everyone get together, and it taught us stuff about the sun and other ways to make energy."
The cars designed by students are small and consist of two wooden axles with four wheels, a rubber band, a platform, a small electric motor, a 2-inch by 2-inch solar panel and wires to connect it to the motor.