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FOSS Kit Troubleshooting Information

Solar Cell Troubleshooting

The solar cell lesson needs 2 solar cells linked together to power the motors.

Test the solar cells at least one day ahead to make sure they are powering the motors before you have your students work with them.

We have found that when people are having trouble with the solar cells, the two most important things to do first are to get each motor going with a battery and to lubricate the motors using a light oil, such as sewing machine oil (be sure to keep all oils out of the reach of students).

If you do these things first, getting the motors going with sunlight or the overhead projector may not be necessary.

1. Prepare the motors. Put masking tape flags on the motor spindles so you can see them turning.

2. Test the motors with the AA cells. Place a motor’s wire ends on the ends of a AA cell, one to each end. Make sure the spindles are spinning while you hold the connections for a minute or so.

3. Lubricate the motors using a light oil, such as sewing machine oil (be sure to keep all oils out of the reach of students).

4. Prepare the solar cells. Make sure the cells are linked together and the positive wire is linked with the positive wire of the second cell. Take the wire and place the eye at the end over the bolts. Screw the nuts down to hold the wires in place. Make sure the nuts are screwed down tightly to ensure good connections.

5. Place the solar cells in direct sunlight or face down on an overhead projector (with the light on!) for 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Connect the ends of a motor’s wires to a solar cell. The ends of the solar cell wires have clips, and you can place one wire from the motor on one side, and the other wire on the other side. Make sure that no metal parts of the wires are touching each other (this would result in a short circuit and the motor won’t work).

7. Place the solar cell back on the overhead projector and flick the flag on the motor spindle to get it spinning.

8. If the system doesn’t work yet, keep the solar cell on the overhead for a longer time. It also helps to give the flag a little push to get it started.

9. The solar cells do not store electricity. If they are removed from the light source they will not work. They need to be in close proximity to the light source (at least a 75 watt bulb) before they will work.