May 13: Solar Cars

Can we make a new future with renewable energy?

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • By looking at the photos, what can you figure out about the design ideas behind the solar car in this article? Why do you think it is shaped the way it is? What challenges does it look like the creators faced?
  • Solar-powered cars were first tried in the 1960s. In 1992, a solar car was driven from Cape Reinga to Bluff. But solar cars have not become mainstream. Solar works for powering light machines better than heavy machines and it is also unreliable as clouds and darkness stop the panels charging. Do you think car companies should keep investigating the use of solar panels? What do you think the future of cars might look like?
  • Three University friends built this car together. They were trained in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and boat building. What might it be like working with some friends on a major project like this? If you could build something big like a car, what would it be and who would you get to help you build it?
  • The article describes how going downhill in the car is more like flying a glider than driving a car. What might it be like to be on the road in Solarfern? Would you feel scared or excited? Do you think the view might look different? If you were driving and you saw Solarfern, what would you think? How do you think people reacted when they saw Solarfern?
  • In 2012 when this article was written, New Zealand spent $8 billion on fuel and $240 million on air-quality related health problems. Cars are expensive to run and not good for the environment. Can you think of any other ways cars are either positive or negative for us as individuals, or as a society? Have electric cars or other alternatives grown in popularity since 2012?

Task—Explore shadows

  1. Put a large piece of paper on the ground at the beginning or end of the day – both times when the sun makes interesting shadows.
  2. Find some objects from the toybox or around the living room and play around with how the shape and size of the shadow changes when you rotate or tilt the objects.
  3. You can also draw around the objects for some interesting art.

Send us a picture of your interesting shadows!