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Solar Panels and Motors

In this activity, students play with solar panels, complete a solar panel-motor circuit, and use art materials to create spinning masterpieces.

What do you need to make a motor turn?

Usually we use an electric current provided by a battery or an electrical socket. The sun can also generate a solar electric current with the help of the same element that is in sand, silicon. When sunlight heats specially-prepared silicon sheets (photovoltaic cells), it causes some of the electrons to move. This movement of electrons IS electricity.


  • Students learn how solar energy can be harnessed to create an electric current.


  • Per Group:
    alligator clips
    Solar Panel
    small motors
    light source (Sun or lamp)
    art supplies (paper circles, old CDs, popsicle sticks, etc.)

Key Questions

  • How does the behaviour of the motor change when the light source is manipulated?

What To Do

  1. Divide students into groups with one solar panel and one motor per group.
  2. Attach solar panels to motors.
  3. Face the solar panels towards the sun, and than face them away from the sun. Observe any differences?
  4. Use art materials to create spinning sculptures or small vehicles for your motor to power.


  • Use mirrors to reflect sunlight or lamp light onto your solar panel. How does this change the results?

Other Resources

LEGO Education | Solar Panels

Natural Resources Canada | About Renewable Energy

British Columbia Sustainable Energy | Solar Photovoltaic