Devices such as the iPad can be great educational tools, but the solar powered Volta Flyer is a more hands-on affair that could help inspire a new generation of solar professionals – and provide a little exercise as well.
Touted as the world’s first solar powered airplane science kit for kids, the Volta Flyer teaches children about basic mechanical engineering, aeronautics, electronics and renewable energy.
The kit contains prefabricated parts that can be assembled in as little as 20 minutes without special tools or glues.
The plane is powered by a thin-film flexible amorphous silicon solar panel. Instead of a conventional battery, the Volta Flyer has two 6 farad capacitors. A capacitor is an electrical component used to store electrical energy temporarily in an electric field. While the capacitors used don’t store a lot of energy, unlike conventional batteries these should never need changing.
The plane is charged by angling the solar panel towards the sun for 90 seconds. A button is then flipped for a bit of boost and the Volta Flyer is hand launched into the air. The plane is built to withstand crashes too – all major components are designed to separate on heavy impact rather than break; then it’s just a matter of plugging them back together.
The craft can be adjusted to fly in tight or large circles and lands itself after a short time once its power is depleted.
Making learning fun and interesting has always been a key to successful education.
“Hands-on research provides the kind of knowledge that students are likely to internalize because they are mentally and physically invested in it,” say its makers.
The Volta Flyer is one in a series of science projects for kids developed by ToyLabs to support STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). One of its other creations is the Volta racer solar car; which helps children learn about Newton’s Laws, simple circuitry, renewable energy and calculating speed and distance.
The Volta Flyer not only looks like a fun educational toy for kids, but adults might get a kick out of it as well. Unfortunately, it won’t be available in Australia in time for the holidays – a Kickstarter campaign is currently under way to fund initial production.