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Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 60 or more mins
  • Mathematics
  • D&T
  • Physics

Solar power in space

Investigate the photovoltaic effect and manufacture a simple circuit in this free activity.

In this engaging task, students will explore the photovoltaic effect by creating a simple circuit and incorporating it into a product—specifically, a solar-powered version of the well-known jitterbug project called a “solarbug.”

This activity can serve as a targeted hands-on exercise for subjects like Electronics or Product Design under the umbrella of Design & Technology. Alternatively, it could be included as a component of a study on the application of solar energy in the field of science.

Activity: Solar power in space

Photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, are used as a power source by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

This activity is one of a set of STEM resources developed with the theme of the James Webb Space Telescope to support the teaching of Science, Design & Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The ‘Photovoltaic cells’ scheme of work involves investigating how photovoltaic cells are used and then using this technology to make a series of increasingly complex electronic circuits.

What is the James Webb Space Telescope?

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the largest and most powerful telescope ever to be launched into space. It is a monumental leap in space exploration, building on the legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope. The JWST is the next great space science observatory, with a primary mission to unravel the mysteries of the universe. It will address lingering questions and achieve groundbreaking revelations across all fields of astronomy.

With its powerful infrared telescope, the JWST can see much fainter and more distant objects than the Hubble Space Telescope, including stars shrouded in dust clouds, molecules in the atmospheres of other worlds, and light from the first stars and galaxies.

The JWST is equipped with a suite of cutting-edge instruments that will allow it to study the universe in unprecedented detail. These instruments will help us better understand the Solar System, the formation of stars and planets, and the evolution of galaxies. The JWST is a revolutionary telescope that will blaze new trails in exploration. It is already making headlines with its first images, and it is sure to continue to amaze us for years to come.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity, students will understand how photovoltaic cells work, how they can be used in a circuit and how to make a simple circuit.

The engineering context

The James Webb Space Telescope uses photovoltaic cells as its power source.

Download the free activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable so that you can tailor them to your students and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, helpful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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