Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Physics Solar Workshop v2.0

Physics Solar Workshop v2.0

Fall 2015 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $64.95

Thames & Kosmos has produced another solid kit with their Physics Solar Workshop v2.0. Updated from their previous edition to reflect the current state of solar technology, the kit offers designs for a handful of solar-powered vehicles (with additional vehicles possible and limited only by the child's imagination) and a dozen experiments to learn about the power and capabilities of the solar cell and motor working together. The kit includes a battery module for testing models on a cloudy day, and as a side benefit the solar cell can be used to charge the batteries in the module when there is adequate sunlight. However, the solar cell and motor included in the kit frustrated some testers. Though the instructions indicate that batteries and normal lighting including LEDs and halogen lamps will be adequate for indoor operation, in practice only a very bright incandescent (not fluorescent) bulb could even start the motor, and a battery-powered robot could barely move. Parents should encourage children to pull this kit out on the sunniest of days for best results.

The manual includes a wide range of information on solar cell technology, including the science behind their functionality, some history, future directions, and applications. Parents will need to help younger readers understand the more advanced material in the manual, but the experimental directions and pictorial building instructions should be easily comprehensible even to 8-year-olds. The experiments in the book are genuine experiments and not merely demonstrations; budding scientists are encouraged to make repeated observations under many conditions and compare the results quantitatively.

Emily Crawford   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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