Solar powered fan design challenge (Grade 5)

Grade: Five

Topic: Understanding Earth and space systems - conservation of energy and resources

Design Challenge:

Students will research, design, and build (using the materials and tools provided) a solar powered fan that transforms solar/electric energy into kinetic energy. Students will investigate the system to determine where energy is lost during the transformation. Students will record their results, make modifications and re-test (if time permits), and complete a report on the steps they took to solve the design challenge, and the results of the investigation.

OCTE 2012 – Elementary Conference Workshops

Sample solar powered fan


  • CSA approved safety glasses/goggles, one pair per person (parent volunteers included);
  • an approved eyewash station; this can be two eyewash bottles containing approved eyewash fluid that has not reached its expiry time limit after decanting, or an installed system (an actual eyewash station, or approved faucet attachment);
  • a first aid kit (please see your Board's Health and Safety Regulations if one is being purchased for your classroom);
  • basic hacksaws (junior saws), or coping saws, minimum one for every 3 projects
  • bench hooks, minimum one for every 3 projects
  • 3" C-clamps, minimum one for every 3 projects
  • a ruler, one per project;
  • if you wish to have your students include adjustable positioning of the fan and/or solar cell, the following tools will be needed;
    • manual hand drill (closed, non-powered), 3 per class,
    • drill bits, one for each drill, match to the size of the nut, bolt, and washer combinations you will be using;
    • a small adjustable wrench (to tighten nuts onto stove bolts),
    • a flat head screwdriver (to hold stove bolt while the nut is being tightened) please note that if other bolts are being used, you may need a different screwdriver head;
  • wire strippers, if wires do not have enough bare material to make proper connections or joints (pliers with a side cutter section will work, or even scissors; however, they are more likely to cut the wire during stripping than actual wire strippers), one for every six projects;
  • scissors, one pair for every project (students may supply their own);
  • low heat glue guns (one for every five projects); please note that white glue can be used instead of glue guns for making joints between wood pieces
  • aprons, 1 per low heat glue gun.


  • basswood strips 24" x 1/2" x 1/2" (12mm x 12mm x 61cm),, 3 per project,
  • triangle card stock gussets 8-10 per project
  • solar cell, one per project;
  • low inertia DC motor, one per project;
  • solar fan propeller, one per project;
  • sand paper, medium to fine grit, 1 sheet for every 5 projects;
  • red and black, thin diameter braided copper wire; have about three meters of each on hand in case students need to extend the length of a wire to make a connection;
  • 2 rolls of electric tape for the class (used at wire joints, and to attach the motor to the wood strip);
  • if adjustable positioning is to be included the following items are needed;
    • up to 2 stove bolts per project (3/16" x 1 1/2"),
    • up to 2 metal flat washers per project (3/16" hole),
    • up to 2 metal lock washers per project (3/16" hole),
    • up to 2 hex nuts (or wing nuts - easier to use but more expensive) per project (3/16" hole),
  • low heat glue sticks, one per project; if using white glue, have about 300ml on hand for the class.