Solar robot activity introduces children to building a kit and experimenting with solar energy. Simple kits to build are the solar frog and grasshopper.
Safety note: Be sure to explain safety precautions to children. This solar robot activity has very small parts. Eye protection should be used. Disclaimer: All information provided on this site is for entertainment and education purposes only. Using any information from thecasabouquet.com is at your own risk.
For the solar robot frog robot mini solar kit:
- Carefully take out the parts and instructions from the box. Find all the parts on the Parts List.
- Organize all the parts for the steps in the Assembly Instruction. I used a dollar store ice cube tray to place the parts for steps 1 through 19.
- Put the solar panel in the sun or under a halogen lamp to make sure the motor operates.
- The green plastic parts are numbered on the plastic. Be sure to keep them organized as you twist them off the plastic.
- Follow the assembly instructions carefully in order. It is important that the gears touch each other and rotate together when moved.
- Take your time especially when you get to step 12 where the two halves of the frog click together. Assembling an entire working frog can take an hour or more.
- Once the frog is completed, take it outside and watch it go! If it doesn’t move, but you can hear the motor turning, you may have to take it apart and go back to step 10.
You can try racing your frog against your classmates’ frogs. Do they move in a straight line? Along with trying a straight race track, you might try making a bullseye shape on the sidewalk with painters tape. The frogs could all start in the center and you can time how long it takes to get out. Then you can try racing frogs against grasshoppers!
What happens if you cover part of the solar panel? What percent of the panel should be uncovered for the frog to hop?
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Supplies for solar robot activity
- Safety glasses
- Ice cube tray or other organizing box
- Small screwdriver kit (5/64″ Phillips works well)
- OWI Robotikit Happy hopping frog
- OWI Robotikit Frightened grasshopper (if desired)
- Halogen desk lamp (if sun substitute needed)
- Painters tape
- paper or notebook for recording results, pen
Tips for teachers: check your students’ solar robot assembly before they do step 12. You might be able to do some trouble-shooting before the screws are put in.
What is the science?
Content: electricity, electric circuits, photovoltaic cell, engineering, semiconductors, simple machines, gears
Solar panels are made of circuits made with semiconductor material. Solar energy converted to electricity in solar panels can be used to power many household and industrial appliances. Issues include storage of electricity (so it can be used on cloudy days or at night), finding the best angle to catch the sun, and making the panels and their installation more affordable. Solar panels provide clean and quiet power and have no moving parts.
Gears teeth are fit together so that when one turns, so does the other. Small gears turn quicker with less force than larger slower moving gears. A system of gears can greatly increase the force available from a machine.
- General Lab Safety resources from Flinn Scientific. Be sure to check out the Student Safety Contract.
- Solar resources from National Energy Education Development Project
- Solar educational products from Elenco
- How solar cells work from How Stuff Works
- Simple machines from DK Find Out!
Let’s talk story
Especially with building the frog, children can become quite frustrated. They have to hold tiny gears in place, fit the motor into a very small space, and fit everything together so the parts click. I always ordered a few extra robots for this activity: if students couldn’t handle the frog, they could try the grasshopper. I have seen too many children who have never gotten a chance to build anything or follow written assembly directions. I think this is an important exercise for learning patience, perseverance, and troubleshooting, traits that are so important in the engineering workplace. And I liked being able to let the children take their robots home as a symbol of accomplishment.
I’ll be looking for comments below, or contact me at lisa [at] thecasabouquet[dot]com.