Andrea Fellows, Rachael Haverstick
Applied Science, Computer Science, Engineering, Electronic Technology, Cultural Geography
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lesson
Upper Primary, Middle School, High School
Creative Commons Attribution
Media Formats:
Downloadable docs

Education Standards

Solar Power Strawbees/Micro:bit Lesson

Solar Power Strawbees/Micro:bit Lesson


This lesson goes along with a unit in which students will be studying specific countries. Students will identify an area of need in their country and create a solar device to help power a solution to that need. 


Design Challenge Title: Powering Equality

Author(s): Andrea Fellows


Background and Question/Challenge: Each of you are studying a country in Africa. One of Africa’s biggest issues right now is to reduce inequality among countries. This means that each of your countries has an area of need: improved sanitation, access to healthcare, access to clean water, access to food, etc. A first step to solving these needs is providing access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy in all areas of the country you are studying. Today you will be creating a light sensing solar panel that can be used to provide power.  When finished, decide what type of device your solar panel will primarily power in your country that will help solve a major need specific to your country. If time, design and build the device it will power.
SDG Goal: 10. Reduce inequality among countries7. Affordable and clean energy6. Clean water and sanitationWhy is this challenge relevant to students? Our class will be studying continents at the beginning of the year this year. Our first continent is Africa. When researching the SDG’s for Africa, one of the major goals is #10: reduce inequality within and among countries. Serious issues include child mortality and lack of access to sanitation.  One potential piece to solve these issues is access to cheaper yet sustainable energy sources.
Constraints/Criteria: Students will work in small groups to create the solar device due to limited Strawbees kits available. Students will work together to build the device as well as to code the microbit. Students can choose to divide parts of the project based on their interests. Extension activity will be based on student individual areas of study.Materials: StrawbeesServo MotorMicro:bitsComputersStudent HandoutsPaper and other design materialsExtension activity: Classroom design supplies such as cardboard, markers, tape, etc. Additional Micro:bit and Sam Lab kits
Math, Science, T&E, CS Standards:3.4.10.C2. Analyze a prototype and/or create a working model to test a design concept by making actual observations and necessary adjustments.3.4.10.C2. Analyze a prototype and/or create a working model to test a design concept by making actual observations and necessary adjustments.3.4.10.A2 Interpret how systems thinking applies logic and creativity with appropriate comprises in complex real-life problems.3.4.10.A3 Examine how technology transfer occurs when a new user applies an existing innovation developed for one purpose in a different function.3.4.10.E3 Compare and contrast the major forms of energy: thermal, radiant, electrical, mechanical, chemical, nuclear and others.CC.2.4.HS.B.5 Make inferences and justify conclusions based on sample surveys, experiments, and observational studies.
Problem Solving Practice(s)/Process(s): Design Thinking ●      Discovery●      Interpretation●      Ideation●      Experimentation●      Evolution The engineering design process ●      Define the problem●      Generate/Brainstorm Ideas●      Select a solution●      Testing and evaluation●      Present the solutionCoding Activities/Lessons:
  1. Students will first be presented with the design challenge and materials.
  2. Students will then work in teams/small groups to build the solar device and attach the Micro:bit and Servo Motor. See attached handout.  
  3. Teams will then use sample codes provided to determine how to code their device and test their code.
  4. Once teams have a working device and code, they will determine the area of need or type of device they would like to power in their countries.
  5. If time, students will design a device to help with reducing inequality in their country.
  6. Students will complete a reflection video or worksheet (see attachment) in the last 15 minutes of the session.
STEM Career Connections:Solar:
  • Materials Engineer
  • Field Service Technician
  • Technical Sales Of Photovoltaic Systems
  • Solar Site Assessor
  • Solar Installer
Water, sanitation, and hygiene:  HydrologistHealth concerns: Epidemiologist
Literature Connections:
  • Green Planet: Solar Power Rebecca Pettiford

  • Solar Power Julia Vogel

  • Energy from the Sun: Solar PowerJames Bow

  • Finding Out about Solar Energy Matt Doeden

Attachments/Student Handouts:  Solar device design idea/inspiration: sensor code: motor code: Shake in Dark Sample CodeStudent Handout: Student Solar Device HandoutStudent Reflection: STEM Student Reflection Rubric: STEM Rubric.pdf
Additional Resources/Notes:To complete this project I will need the Strawbees light sensor attachment.