Engineering.com by Tom Spendlove
ToyLabs wants kids to have easy fun ways to learn STEM concepts. They sell the Volta Solar Panel kit and the Volta Solar Racer on their website currently, and are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund their Volta Flyer project. The Volta Flyer wants to be the first solar powered airplane science kit for kids.
The team hopes that the flyer can be assembled in around twenty minutes without any tools or adhesives. Principles of engineering, aeronautics, electronics and renewable energy are all discussed in the assembly instructions and explanations shipped with the kit.
Flight instructions are simple – point the panel toward the sun for ninety seconds, activate the propeller and launch the glider. Wing separators are a part of the design to lessen impact during a crash and decrease the chance of the flyer blowing away.
The fuselage is made of balsa wood and Depron and houses the capacitors, diodes, ballast and a 47 millimeter propeller. The thin film amorphous silicon solar panel runs at 4.8 Volts, 0.48 Watts, and is 0.22mm thick.
ToyLabs is seeking the Kickstarter funding to pay for component tooling and buy the electronic components at scale. Volta products have been shipping since 2013 and are integrated in several projects worldwide. The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, University of New South Wales, University of Arizona and the Los Angeles Unified School District all use Volta products to teach STEM concepts and renewable energy. The campaign ends on December 16, 2015 and is currently around half of its goal. The first flyers are expected to ship in March 2016.
The concept behind Volta is great and the teaching aspect is fantastic – this is easily something that I could do with my eleven year old or use in a first year Introduction to Engineering course. Several of the partner agencies use Volta already to teach STEM and this next phase will allow even more students to learn while doing engaging hands-on activities.