Education - How Solar Cells Work (Education-Solar Cells) - 11.22.16
The astronaut will discuss in detail how solar cells work and how they provide energy. The activity is videotaped and for use in classroom lectures. Science Results for Everyone
Let the sun shine. NASA’s Teaching From Space Office at Johnson Space Center designed educational activities around a solar array on the space station. Astronaut and Atlantis pilot Christopher Ferguson, who hatched the idea, created a video demonstrating energy from solar cells, open circuit voltage and power measurement with resistors. With the aid of LED lights, he also performed a visual demonstration of solar flux, or energy emission from the sun. Lockheed Martin Corporation donated solar cells, engineering students at Oklahoma State University linked them into packs for the demonstration and for schools, and NASA’s Student Observation Network created lessons and activities. Experiment Details
Christopher J. Ferguson, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Jonathan Neubauer, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
ISS Expedition Duration
April 2006 - September 2006
Similar education activities have been performed on Space Shuttle and ISS Expeditions.
- Education-Solar Cells is designed to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
- Students discover a basic understanding of electricity and power and the variables that affect the operation of solar panels.
- Students learn about the power requirements of the International Space Station and how solar arrays supply the necessary power. Students will also discover power requirements of their own homes and how solar power could supply that power.
The Teaching From Space Office at the NASA's Johnson Space Center worked closely with Astronaut Christopher Ferguson, pilot of STS-115 (Atlantis); Lockheed Martin Corporation; Oklahoma State University and the Student Observation Network to provide classroom versions of solar cells and learning activities to NASA Explorer Schools. These activities have been designed to engage students through the STS-115 primary mission objective, deployment of a new solar array on the International Space Station (ISS). The original suggestion for this activity was brought to Teaching From Space by Ferguson.
In his free time during the STS-115 mission, Ferguson will demonstrate how solar cells work in front of a video camera. Ferguson will discuss, in detail, how solar cells provide energy; open circuit voltage; and power measurement with resistors. With the aid of LED lights, a visual demonstration of solar flux will also be performed. Following completion, the video will be edited for use in the classroom.
Lockheed Martin Corporation donated solar cells to this project for educational purposes. Engineering students at Oklahoma State University linked the solar cells together in packs for use in the Space Shuttle demonstration and for distribution to the schools. The NASA Student Observation Network created lessons and activities that will be provided to the NASA Explorer Schools and the Aerospace Education Specialists when teaching this lesson.
Education-Solar Cells introduces the next generation of explorers to the environment of space.
Using a new approach in the classroom to space flight, science, and mathematics will capture the imagination of students. Allowing students to participate in activities that directly involve NASA will inspire them to pursue careers in science and engineering.
Operational Requirements and Protocols
Education-Solar Cells will utilize the solar cell pack assembled by Oklahoma State University students to demonstrate how solar cells work. On the Space Shuttle the demonstration will require video taping of the demonstration.
One crewmember, astronaut Chris Ferguson, will tape the demonstration during his free time on the mission. Following the mission, the video is returned to Earth for editing and distribution to NASA Explorer Schools nationwide along with the curriculum developed by the Student Observation Network.
Decadal Survey Recommendations
Information Pending^ back to top
Dan Hern, OSU Masters Student in Aviation and Space Education, works on solar cell hardware that will fly aboard STS-115. Image courtesy of Oklahoma State University.
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