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Lesson: Zero-Energy Home Design

building in classIn this activity, student teams in grades 9 to 12 design and build a one-bedroom model house within design constraints that uses passive solar heating techniques to heat the house and sustain that temperature as long as possible.

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Feature: Solar Decathlon Powers Up

New Zealand TeamWhat does it take to build a solar village, where homes not only are designed to create more energy than they use but are comfortable and cool to look at, too? For some 19 collegiate teams from the U.S. and aborad installing their entries to the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, the answer is: lots of hands-on work involving hammers, wrenches, plumbing, and construction cranes.

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Student Invents Solar Tree

Aiden DwyerOn a hike through the Catskill Mountains in New York, Aidan Dwyer, a seventh-grader, noticed that the branches of oak trees seemed to follow a pattern. Inspired, he created a tree-like arrangement of small solar panels capable of generating 20-50% more energy than a traditional flat designs.

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Lesson: Solar Water Heater

Water Heater SetupStudent teams in grades 9-11 gain a better understanding of heat transfer and engineering by designing and building solar water-heating devices that mimic those used in residences. Once the model devices are constructed, students perform efficiency calculations and compare designs.

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Contest: Junior Solar Sprint, Florida, May 1, 2010

solarcarAs part of the 2010 Junior Solar Spring, Florida middle school students, grades 6-8, are invited to design, build and race Junior Solar Sprint (JSS) cars. The small model cars — powered entirely by solar energy and steered by wires — are built as team efforts guided by teachers. Date: May 1, 2010

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Website: Energy for Educators

Operated by the Idaho National Laboratory, the Energy for Educators Website offers excellent lessons on energy topics for all grade levels, including on wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, nuclear, and biomass energy sources.

Teachers will also find news about the Energy workshops, INL wind resources, real-time wind data, “energy myths,” and a write-in “ask a scientist” page.

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Curriculum: Solar, Alternative Energy


The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research arm of the University of Central Florida, has developed downloadable sets of curriculum materials for K-12 teachers and schools on alternative energy sources, including solar, photovoltaics, hydrogen, and fuel cells. The Website lists descriptions of these curriculum materials, links to web sites, and information on each unit. Care has been taken to insure that the proper state standards that apply have been maintained.

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Students Prepare for Solar Decathlon

lumenStudents are making their way to the National Mall in Washington to reassemble the solar-powered houses that they designed as part of the 2009 Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the Department of Energy.

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Lesson: Solar Cooking

In this series of lessons for grades 6-8, students first experiment with a virtual solar cooker to discover the mathematical relationship among reflection, transmission and absorption. Then they apply their knowledge to building and testing a solar cooker of their own invention. In an extension, students investigate how these principles can be used as sustainable energy sources for homes through passive solar heating.

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