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Solar Car STEM Challenge

Year 6 and Year 5/6 students have participated in the Synergy Schools Solar Challenge.

The Solar Challenge is a joint initiative with the Science Teachers Association of WA. It has been designed with a focus on STEM learning and getting Western Australia’s next generation of scientists and engineers excited about what’s possible with renewable energy.

We have spent the year so far analysing, building, testing, and refining our solar cars to prepare them for our school race day. Students were involved in small groups to work out how they could build the best and fastest solar car.

As classes, we tested the difference that the angle of a solar panel had compared to the volts produced, using a multi-meter. We also discovered that there was a direct correlation between the volts produced and the speed of the motor. We looked at different ways that circuits could be created and wired up as well as the benefits of a robust wiring system.

Students also tested the difference in gearing arrangements with their solar car. As a group, they had to decide whether it was better to start with a small gear and have high top end speed but slower acceleration, or whether it was better to have a small gear and limit the top end speed but have faster acceleration.

Throughout the whole design process students were encouraged to discover the answers for themselves as well as to think of real-life applications/transference for some of this technology, like solar panels on houses and gearing on a mountain bike.

The culmination of the year’s design work thus far was Race Day. Students had the chance to pit their car against others in a 20-metre race. Eleven different heats were run as groups grappled with breakdowns, wear and tear, and tweaking their cars for peak performance.

A cohort of six was select to represent Rehoboth at the interschool Synergy Schools Solar Challenge Race Day. Unfortunately, Synergy has had to postpone this event as a precautionary measure due to COVID-19, but we hope there will be an opportunity later in the year to participate!

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