Designing a Solar Car Part 1

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SWBAT design and test a solar car in an effort to any the question, "Can solar cars be the transportation of the future?"

Big Idea

The reliance of fossil fuels for transportation has become a global issue. Is solar energy a great hope for the transportation industry? Students design and test the a solar car to determine how the design of the car has an effect on its performance.


10 minutes

This lesson is divided into four different parts.  The lessons are divided by the engineering standard and by the strategies I use to teach the standards. For example, I use a Student Led Design strategy to develop an engineering design problem. Students answer the question, "Why is designing a solar car is an important design problem?" Finally students use a Write to Learn strategy to express why this engineering design problem is important. 

Design Problem

10 minutes

My strategy is Student Led Design. I have conducted the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Integration Lesson. I have a bulletin board of World Problems. I ask my students, “If you could help solve a world problem, what would you try to solve? Many students want to help solve environmental problems. For this lesson, I had a group of all boys. They wanted to design a solar car. I had never done it before but I found a good model and started planning. 

 I asked the students to explain in a movie why they wanted to design a solar car. 

Design Problem Rationale

10 minutes

I start the lesson with a strategy called Digging Deeper into Science. The resource my students use is their science notebook. I ask, “Why is designing a solar car an important design problem?” 

Students explain, “We need to use fewer fossil fuels.” I ask, “Why?” They mention non-renewable energy sources or climate change. I ask, “How can a solar car design help?”

I expect my students to keep good notes and I create a need for well-written notes by asking them to refer to prior notes to find important information. My strategy is using former lessons to answer the question, "Why is this an important design problem?" I say, "We need to learn more about why this is an important design problem."  My next strategy is called Find a Fact. Students use their notebooks to look for facts, statistics, and references. Students highlight useful information in their notebooks that can be used to answer the the question, “Why is designing a solar car an important design problem?”  Students go back into their notebooks to look for lessons that might help answer the question. I know there is a lot of information in their notebooks because I have taught the lesson Measuring Energy in the Atmosphere: Exploring Climate Change

After students have highlighted the useful information, they begin to create an organizer. For this lesson I use a T-chart strategy. Students rewrite the information in the left hand column and explain which lesson in the notebook they found the lesson in the right hand column. This is important because in the final writing of a summary, they add a citation. They need to know the source for the lesson to find the appropriate citation. 

To help student understand how their families use fossil fuels for transportation and the environmental effects, I use the lesson called  How Much Gasoline Do You Really Use? After students have examined their use of gasoline, they have a personal connection to their contribution to climate change. 

Communicate the Design Problem

20 minutes

My strategy is for students to use what they have learned and describe why it is important to design a solar car. To do this I use a strategy called Write to Learn. I use the T-Chart students created as a strategy to write the summary. Students pick the strongest information on the T-chart to use in their summary. I ask students to write a 5-7 sentence summary explaining why designing a solar car is an important design problem.

They are required to use any source from previous lessons to explain why this is an important problem to solve. They must use MLA format and include a quote with a bibliography. We use the Google Add-on Easy Bib to make the creation of a bibliography painless.