WSU Whatcom County Extension

Stewardship is Where You Are

Weather Watchers

The Big Picture

Let’s face it: the sun is the “engine” that sustains all living things on this planet. The sun is about 93 million miles away from us but on a sunny day we still feel its warmth. (93 million miles is like going all the way around the Earth more than 23,000 times). On a sunny day, the sun's rays give off approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter of the planet's surface. How far from a 60 watt lamp can you hold your hand before you stop feeling the lamps radiant energy? The sun is a star and it is “burning” through a process called nuclear fusion. The energy produced in one second by the sun is more than mankind has used since the beginning of time, and there are many more kinds of energy coming off of the sun that the human eye can’t see! Non-renewable energies such as oil or natural gas may begin running out in as little as ten years, but the sun is expected to keep churning out energy for about 3 billion more years. Without a doubt, in your lifetime you will see a change in the kinds of energy we use!

What is solar power? What kind of energy comes from the sun and how do we harness it? What are the trade-offs of using solar power? In this unit you will explore the science of light, solar radiation and energy.

Explorer - Skill Level: One Engager - Skill Level: Two Citizen Scientist - Skill Level: Three


Using the power from the sun to propel the vehicle

Title: Build a Solar Powered Car

Objective: Youth will build a solar powered vehicle

Science Skills:  Build, Observe, Measure

Life Skills: Cooperation

Preparation Activities: Check out a kit from Extension, or order a solar car kit from online.

Materials: Solar Scientist Engager Kit (available at Extension Office)

Ask the Right Questions: Can you change the speed of the car? How?  Can you use the panel/motor and design a different car? What would you have to keep the same? What could you change? Look through the list of projects in Explore More. Is there one you would like to work on?

Explore More:
How Stuff Works-Solar Powered Cars



Natural Resource Stewards


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Explore More

- Are Solar Cars Practical?
- Chevron’s Energyville
- Build It Solar


It's All Connected

Steve Fleishman
Western Washington University Vehicle Research Institute

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WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 North Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham, WA 98225, (360) 778-5800, Contact Us