Sustainability in Motion

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Solar Car Lesson

Solar Car

This lesson gives the students a chance to build their own Lego
® solar car and discover how solar power can produce enough energy to move an object. In Part 1, students construct and race a solar car.  In Part 2, students investigate how various parameters, such as the angle of the solar panel, the distance between the motor and the axel, and the weight of the car, can affect the efficiency of the solar car.  You can download the lesson, building instructions, and car modifications.

Tour of Westminster College's Solar Panels

Solar at Field Station

Student groups can come to campus to tour the solar array at Westminster’s Field Station. A guided tour given by a faculty member or SuSIM student assistant will highlight the key components of the grid-tied 2kW system and will explain how solar energy is converted into electricity. Students will also be shown the data logging system which captures real-time data and stores historical data.

SuSIM Kits/Demos
(These are best utilized in very small classes, for independent projects, or demonstrations.)

CREEK - Classroom Renewable Energy Education Kit (with REEL Power Software)

This kit includes a solar panel, a DC light, music box, resistors, clip leads, a magnetic compass, protractor, a small motor-propeller, a rechargeable battery, and LEDs that can be interfaced to the Smart Meter-Data Logger. The Smart Meter-Data Logger measures and records all electrical data such as voltage, current, resistance, power and energy simultaneously.  The Smart Meter – Data Logger can be used as a stand-alone device or interfaced to a computer.  12 lessons are included with this kit and available on line (  Note:  similar data logging can be performed with Vernier’s LabQuest devices.

Physics Solar Workshop

This kit contains 12 models and 30 experiments.  Students can learn how solar cells transform light into electrical energy, and how motors and mechanical devices can optimize the work done by this energy by building a solar-powered tractor, truck, treaded vehicle, car, elevator, drawbridge, fan, airplane, mobile crane or construction crane.  The kit comes with a 64-page book containing illustrated instructions.

Solar Energy Model Home/Kit

For demonstration purposes, a model home has been created that utilizes active solar energy to light a lightbulb and power a fan. It also shows how passive energy can be used to heat water. You are welome to borrow the completed model home for your classroom.  Alternatively, you can borrow a kit to build your own solar energy model home.

Solar Irradiance Meter

The solar irradiance meter measures the sun's intensity in W/m2 using a calibrated silicon pyranometer.  The meter has a range of 0 to 1999 W/m2 and an accuracy of ± 5%. The device is useful for comparing solar insolation and solar panel performance .

Solar Pathfinder  and Solar Pathfinder Teaching Demo (DVD)

The Solar Pathfinder is a non-electronic device that allows you to diagram the monthly sunpath at a possible solar energy site.  It shows the percentage of solar energy that is potentially available at the site each month of the year.  The teaching demo is a short animation that demonstrates the use of the Solar Pathfinder.   It also includes some teaching files.

Snap Circuits Green Alternative Energy Kit

Students can explore 129 alternative energy projects with this kit.  It includes snap wires, slide switches, an electrode, and a rechargeable battery which snap together easily on the plastic grid (no soldering required).  Students can use a hand crank, solar cell, or windmill to power a radio, clock, or other devices.  This kit is compatible with Snap Circuits SC-300 kit (to expand the types of possible projects), which is also available.  An education manual is included.

Student Created Sustainability Lesson Plans

Westminster College students majoring in education created sustainability lesson plans as part of an assignment for one of their classes. Below are the student's names, title of their lesson plan, and a link to the lesson.
Brooke Lyon
Title of lesson: How Wind Turbines Work
Discipline: Sciences (especially chemistry and physics)
Link: Education%20Student%20Lesson%20Plans/Wind%20Turbines%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf

Noelle Nuckels
Title of lesson: Earth Day ou "Jour de la terre"
Discipline: Languages, specifically French
Link: Education%20Student%20Lesson%20Plans/Language%20Earth%20Day%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf

Molly Sharbaugh
Title of lesson: Cultural Preservation and Transformation: How to Write Proposals
Discipline: English
Link: Education%20Student%20Lesson%20Plans/Proposal%20Writing%20Sustainability%20Lesson.pdf

Olivia Sweeney
Title of lesson: Writing a Persuasive Letter on Sustainability Issues
Discipline: English
Link: Education%20Student%20Lesson%20Plans/Persuasive%20Letter%20Lesson%20Plan.pdf

Other Materials Also Available Through SuSIM

Sustainability in Motion is Funded by PA Department of Environmental Protection,
Environmental Education Grants Program
With support from the Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Westminster College
And Westminster College’s Science in Motion Program

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 For assistance with integrating sustainability concepts into your classroom, please contact:
Dr. Helen Boylan (724-946-6293;