MOSES LAKE — The race was on.
The goal for Moses Lake fifth-graders was to harness the heating power of the sun, using a pizza box and a couple of pieces of aluminum foil. A thermometer in the box recorded their progress.
But getting the maximum benefit of the sun required some careful calculation. The box had to be at just the right angle, and the thermometer had to be in just the right spot. Organizers asked which team could get the highest temperature out of their improvised solar oven. Teams of fifth-graders crouched over their pizza boxes, turning them this way and that, adjusting the lids to catch maximum rays.
Solar ovens were among the many experiments available to fifth-graders at the Solar Car Races and Energy Science Fair. It’s an annual event, sponsored by the Grant County PUD, SEC Silicon, Puget Sound Energy, Big Bend Community College and the Moses Lake School District.
The energy fair focuses on renewable energy – hydropower, solar and wind energy. The experiments were set up on the lawn behind the ATEC building on the BBCC campus.
Utility district line crews set up an entire display of electrical equipment, showing kids what happens when a squirrel (not a real squirrel in the demonstration) tangles with an electrical line, and giving kids other safety information. Utility district officials bring a trailer full of demonstrations and information about hydropower. REC Silicon and Puget Sound Energy also have exhibits on wind and solar energy.
It turns out that solar energy can cook a pretty good s’more, and every fifth-grader got one, along with slice of solar-cooked hot dog.
But the main attraction is the solar cars. “You have cars and you race them in the sun. They’re powered by the sun,” explained Kylee Browning. “That’s how they go, is through the sun.”
Each fifth-grader builds a car from a kit – but alas, not all the cars make it to the starting line. And even the cars that make it to the track don’t always finish the race. Wires break, cars get hung up on the track. And sometimes racers are just unlucky. Two cars were on the track when the sun went behind a cloud. “There’s no more sun,” a racer protested as his car stopped dead.
Fifth-graders from Moses Lake visited the energy fair Wednesday, and kids from other Grant County communities will visit Thursday.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at email@example.com.