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Inventors Kit 4: Solar Spinner

Posted by Matthew Little on

We are now going to use the solar panel to power our motor with the sun, no batteries required!

This time we want to use two cable connector block to connect the solar panel directly to the motor, as shown here. If you put on the motor connector to the motor then you can see the motor spinning more easily.

Takes this to a window or (if you can) outside and try pointing the solar panel at the sun. What happens to the motor?

Does it start to turn? If not - is it a sunny day? Are you pointing the solar panel at the sun in the sky?

Where is the sun in the sky? What time is it? Is the sun moving through the sky? In which direction does the sun rise and the sun set? You might need to check a few times to see the movement of the sun through the day.

(If its very cloudy you can also try this next to a high brightness light. Generally only older incandescent lamps have enough output power to make the motor spin. LEDs and fluorescent lights generally will not work...)

To turn this into a solar spinner you can cut another disk from some cardboard. A cereal packet might be best for this. Tape the long motor connector to the back of the disk. Push this onto the motor spindle.

You could also try using some paper plates as the disk.

Wire up the motor to the solar panel (as we did before). You can draw patterns onto the cardboard disk. These can show you which direction the disk is spinning.


Place the solar panel to point out of a south-facing window. You can blue-tack the motor down so that the spinner is horizontal or vertical. When the sun hits the solar panel then the spinner should spin. You might need to give it a little push when it's cloudy to get it started (as I did in this video)! In bright sunlight it should start straight away.

Try different patterns, colours and effects on the carboard disk. What happens when it is rotating very fast?

You could try add some reflective material to reflect the sunlight and make patterns. Some tin-foil glues to the carboard disk will reflect patterns, or the slightly scrunched up foil insude of a chocolate bar could also work.

Also try reversing the connections to change the direction the motors spins - how does that affect the pattern you have drawn?

Some more links to keep you inspired!

Here are some photos of my experiments!

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