689 Educational Solar Kit

Supplemental Guide to the “Solar Energy” Booklet found with #689 Educational Solar Energy Kit

The Future is Now. You may notice that this kit was designed in the 1970’s. While the history and wiring instructions remain accurate, there are some exciting updates to the “What does the future hold?” In the last 40 years the technology and efficiency of solar systems has greatly improved. There are now more than 1 million solar installations in California alone, with many more throughout the world, powering homes, businesses, schools, and more.


The calculations in the booklet are for the ideal voltages and amperage needed for each load (like the motor). We have found that the motor can work with 2V and 100mA. To calculate how many solar cells need to be wired in series or parallel, assume that each cell produces 0.5V and 100mA. The music module is a new load that we have added to the kit; it needs 1.5V and 100mA. To set up these two loads at the same time look at Figure 15 on page 8 of the booklet. 

If you’d like to experiment with wiring solar cells one at a time, in series and parallel configurations, and noting your observations on performance… here is a worksheet that can help facilitate this activity.

Additional Tips

  • Work over the plastic tray (or another tray/box), so that you don’t lose any nuts and metal tabs.
  • The fan or wheel may need you to turn it once by hand to get started.
  • Make sure that all of your connections are tight or your load may not work properly.
  • Try orienting your solar cells to the sun for maximum performance. 
  • SAV PAA— This handy acronym helps me remember that wiring in Series Adds Volts, while wiring in Parallel Adds Amps. If you want more information about this check out our SSH: Simple Solar Circuits video on Solar Schoolhouse YouTube channel [www.youtube.com/user/solarschoolhouse]

Refer to the Solar Carnival page on Solar Schoolhouse website for ideas on making a solar powered carnival ride. solarschoolhouse.org/carnival The yellow wheel we’ve added is to help with these creations. Scrounge around for twist ties (bread bags), brass brads, or other small wires… to help attach the yellow wheel to cardboard. The Swing and Rocket Rides are potential creations for this solar set. Look for the tips on making cardboard tubes on the carnival page.

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