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published by the Dayton Regional STEM Center
This multi-day project for Grades 9-12 immerses students in the basics of passive and active solar energy through hands-on explorations. The module opens with investigations of photovoltaic cells, angle of incidence, and color absorption. The remaining half is spent in the design, construction, and testing of a small-scale solar house that implements solar panel technology. The module provides full lab instructions, background information, question sets, pre-test and follow-up assessments, discussion questions, and printable student data tables.

This resource is part of a larger collection created by teacher fellows of the Dayton Regional STEM Center. Modules were developed to promote integration of engineering practices into the K-12 science curriculum.
Editor's Note: One component that sets this resource apart is its inclusion of extension activities that allow students to apply computational reasoning about what they learned. These activities include developing a cost analysis of solar power conversion for their own homes and creating a graphical analysis that maps dollars to kilowatt hour usage over time.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
- Curriculum Development
= Laboratory
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromagnetic Radiation
- Geometrical Optics
= Reflection - Flat Surfaces
Other Sciences
- Environmental Science
Thermo & Stat Mech
- First Law
= Heat Transfer
- Thermal Properties of Matter
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Problem/Problem Set
= Project
- Assessment Material
= Rubric
= Test
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Safety Gloves Must be worn   Minimal Danger  

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© 2010 Dayton Regional STEM Center
angle of incidence, clean energy lab, climate literacy, color absorption, energy source, engineering design, green energy, passive solar, photovoltaic, solar energy lab, solar house
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created August 20, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 13, 2013 by Lyle Barbato

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 6-8: 1B/M1b. Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
  • 9-12: 1B/H1. Investigations are conducted for different reasons, including to explore new phenomena, to check on previous results, to test how well a theory predicts, and to compare theories.
1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 9-12: 1C/H3a. Progress in science and invention depends heavily on what else is happening in society.

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 9-12: 3A/H3a. Technology usually affects society more directly than science does because technology solves practical problems and serves human needs (and also creates new problems and needs).
  • 9-12: 3A/H4. Engineers use knowledge of science and technology, together with strategies of design, to solve practical problems. Scientific knowledge provides a means of estimating what the behavior of things will be even before they are made. Moreover, science often suggests new kinds of behavior that had not even been imagined before, and so leads to new technologies.
3B. Design and Systems
  • 9-12: 3B/H1. In designing a device or process, thought should be given to how it will be manufactured, operated, maintained, replaced, and disposed of and who will sell, operate, and take care of it. The costs associated with these functions may introduce yet more constraints on the design.
3C. Issues in Technology
  • 6-8: 3C/M8. Scientific laws, engineering principles, properties of materials, and construction techniques must be taken into account in designing engineering solutions to problems.
  • 6-8: 3C/M9. In all technologies, there are always trade-offs to be made.

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M3. Thermal energy is transferred through a material by the collisions of atoms within the material. Over time, the thermal energy tends to spread out through a material and from one material to another if they are in contact. Thermal energy can also be transferred by means of currents in air, water, or other fluids. In addition, some thermal energy in all materials is transformed into light energy and radiated into the environment by electromagnetic waves; that light energy can be transformed back into thermal energy when the electromagnetic waves strike another material. As a result, a material tends to cool down unless some other form of energy is converted to thermal energy in the material.
  • 6-8: 4E/M6. Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.

8. The Designed World

8C. Energy Sources and Use
  • 6-8: 8C/M5. Energy from the sun (and the wind and water energy derived from it) is available indefinitely. Because the transfer of energy from these resources is weak and variable, systems are needed to collect and concentrate the energy.
  • 9-12: 8C/H6. The useful energy output of a device—that is, what energy is available for further change—is always less than the energy input, with the difference usually appearing as thermal energy. One goal in the design of such devices is to make them as efficient as possible—that is, to maximize the useful output for a given input.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M5. The usefulness of a model depends on how closely its behavior matches key aspects of what is being modeled. The only way to determine the usefulness of a model is to compare its behavior to the behavior of the real-world object, event, or process being modeled.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Conservation of Energy
Unit Title: Renewable Energy Sources

This multi-day project immerses students in the basics of passive and solar energy through hands-on labs. First, students explore photovoltaic cells and color absorption, then design and construct a small-scale "house" that implements solar panel technologies. The resource has robust instructional support built in: front-loaded vocabulary, pre-activity discussion questions, tips on structuring the cooperative learning groups, data tables to record multiple observations, problem sets that introduce mathematics, extension activity, scoring rubric, and answer key.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Dayton Regional STEM Center, Dayton, 2010), WWW Document, (http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/).
Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style (Dayton Regional STEM Center, Dayton, 2010), <http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/>.
APA Format
Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style. (2010). Retrieved June 23, 2024, from Dayton Regional STEM Center: http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/
Chicago Format
Dayton Regional STEM Center. Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style. Dayton: Dayton Regional STEM Center, 2010. http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/ (accessed 23 June 2024).
MLA Format
Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style. Dayton: Dayton Regional STEM Center, 2010. 23 June 2024 <http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style}, Publisher = {Dayton Regional STEM Center}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {23 June 2024}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style %D 2010 %I Dayton Regional STEM Center %C Dayton %U http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/ %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D 2010 %T Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style %I Dayton Regional STEM Center %V 2024 %N 23 June 2024 %9 application/pdf %U http://daytonregionalstemcenter.org/curriculum/warm-home-solar-style/

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Dayton Regional STEM Center: Warm Home Solar Style:

Is Supplemented By NOVA: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Learners take a virtual tour of a photovoltaic cell to see how it acts to establish an electric field and generate electricity from sunlight.

relation by Caroline Hall

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