Nottingham City Council environmental education section required a selection of renewable energy demonstration activities for use with school groups of various ages, mainly from 7 through to 14.

They needed equipment which could be easily transported, assembled and packed-away, but configurable to a number of different designs.

The activities needed to demonstrate the concepts of three renewable energy sources: solar electricity, wind power and hydro (water) power.

These are to be used as part of a range of activities about resources, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The activities needed to be interesting, inspiring, interactive and robust enough to survive use within a classroom environment.

Solution

We came up with three activities: solar car racing, wind turbine challenge and hydro power demonstration rig. These kits introduced the main concepts behind solar photovoltaics, wind electricity production and hydro electricity production.

The first two activities are individual or small group activities, while the hydro demo rig was for classroom demonstration.

Solar Car Racing

These kits have been designed to be used outside, if the sun is shining, or inside using hand-held bright lamps. They will be used with various school groups within Nottinghamshire to introduce renewable energy, mechanics and physics in a fun and interactive way. We had already supplied similar kits to Nottingham City Council. We produced 30 of these kits, plus a few spares.

The motor and front wheels are held on using strong magnets. These can easily be removed and adjusted.

Different wheels can be used to change the speed of the vehicle. Tyres can be added to affect the grip.

This design was based on a solar car kit originally produced for Loughborough University engineering department outreach group.

Wind Turbine Challenge

These kits include a set of small wind turbine blades. These fit into a hub unit and their angle and the number of blades can be adjusted. These hub and blade units then fit onto a wind turbine base unit (using strong magnets again). An industrial fan is used as a wind source to blow the blades around.

There is a very small generator and a large LED display which shows the voltage (which is proportional to the speed). The competition element is to try and get the highest voltage from your blade unit.

Hydro Demonstration Kit

The third of the big three renewable energy sources is hydro power – energy from falling water. This was much harder to design as a kit for each student, so we decided to produce one large demonstration unit which can be used to show the whole group.

This was produced with a metal frame and two plastic reservoirs, one at the top and one at the bottom. The top tank is filled with water and this flows, via pipes and a large valve, to a laser-cut cross-flow turbine. The turbine has a small generator and produces a voltage proportional to the speed of rotation of the turbine. This can be plugged into the large LED display unit (the same one supplied for the wind turbine kits) to show the ‘power’ produced. The control valve can be adjusted to see what effect controlling the water flow has on the voltage.

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Client: Nottingham City Council

Date: June, 2016