Powered by Questions (and the Sun)

A solar panel is made up of solar cells that use photons from the sun to create a flow of electrons: Electricity!  Sounds simple enough.  But connecting eight solar cells to power a fan is not the same as a simple circuit with a bulb and a wire and a battery, even when you have directions- as proven by our inquiry into solar power.  It is especially challenging if you want to connect them in parallel as opposed to a series (which would mean you could cover up one or two of the cells and the fan will still work).  Its hard to remember that the best lessons are learned through failure, and this project sure helped us learn a lot!  We had some success which served as a tool for comparison- the arrangement of solar cells made by James, Sabrina, Lauren, and Will.  At first the only difference we could see was their use of toothed washers between the connector pieces and the nuts that held them down.  But with the removal of those washers the panel still powered the fan.  We concluded that it must have been the arrangement of the positive and negative ends of the cells that proved successful.  The arrangement itself was an accident, leaving even more to be learned.  So the lesson here: the experiment is never really over.  And if questions are fuel for a scientist then there is no shortage in sight!