Educating on Solar Power, Reusing and Art (I)

Intro: Shams Generation is a pioneering CSR initiative established by Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) as a learning program that combines art, science, reusing and solar energy. On its second edition, Shams Generation reached 20 schools and 3,000 students and will reach an additional 2,000 students and families through major public events across Qatar. QSTec supply solar learning kits to educational institutions based on 3 levels of learning for students aged 6 through to university level. See website: www.shamsgeneration.com

We always start with the same question: What do you know about solar power? Of course, the answer depends on the age, but also on the level of curiosity of the student. At the most basic level, we compare the PV solar cell with a tree leaf, explaining that a leaf creates its own energy to grow by catching the sunlight through the process we call photosynthesis… and a solar cell does the same with the photovoltaic effect (more or less, we are simplifying!). In general, kids know what they learnt at the school or watched on TV. They usually conceive a solar device as a big scale thing but, when they start to manipulate these kits, you can feel they change their perspective on the technology, it becomes familiar. The solar device is the core of the project but the real challenge for the students is to integrate it into an artistic shape made of reused materials. They face a problem to be solved: they got a solar device, a pile of cardboard boxes and plastic bottles, and the objective of putting all those together in a creative way. Sometimes there is a common theme but most of the cases the topic is free. Inspiration is a key element here. Students look shy at the very first moment because they see the items and have doubts about how to get into it. Then we show them other similar projects, and they feel they can make it. Once they start you can see how imagination takes the rhythm and the excitement grows as they come up with new ideas and possibilities of the project. We are not discovering something new when we say hands-on approach is really effective in this case: less theory and more experimentation. Questions will come during the building process or the testing phase once they finish the project. It is extremely rewarding when a small kid wonders about the percent of efficiency decrease depending on the amount of dust deployed on the solar cell. This happened many times during the workshops. In the same line, questions about charging time, optimal degree of inclination… or simply understanding why you need to locate your small panel facing south, or at least not facing north. Today we are surrounded by solar gadgets. You just need to go to a typical big supermarket to find solar lanterns in the “gardening section”. With a few dollars you can buy an excellent educational tool to catch the interest from your kids. My experience after working on this program Level 01 with more than 3000 students in the last 3 years is conclusive: by doing this kind of activity, kids learn about solar power. A lot.

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(*) Level 01: Students will be given a kit containing a solar photovoltaic (PV) LED lighting unit. The kit includes everything to make a handheld lantern. The students will use the solar kit to build and decorate lanterns by using recycled materials, developing a free artistic concept. This program is recommended for Elementary School and Middle School.