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Project: Making a Solar Spinner

Let’s make the most basic solar-powered motor possible. It’s not just a solar panel connected to a motor, but it’s close. It’s called a Solar Spinner because the entire robot, except for the base, spins in the light.

What makes the robot work is a capacitor, an electronic component that stores a small amount of voltage inside an electrical field. In a way, it works like a small battery, charging up as solar power trickles in, and then releasing the electricity when the cap is full. See Figure 4.26.

FIGURE 4.26

FIGURE 4.26 The Solar Spinner turns when the sun’s out.

Parts List

You’ll need the following parts to build your Solar Spinner (see Figure 4.27):

  • 3V DC motor—Jameco P/N 2158442.
  • A small solar panel—Harvest one from a yard light, or Jameco has a good one, P/N 2136921.
  • Stranded wire—Jameco P/N 2187876.
  • 1-Farad, 5.5V capacitor—Jameco P/N 142957.

    FIGURE 4.27

    FIGURE 4.27 Grab these parts to build your Spinner.

Step-by-Steps

This is a very simple build, so let’s get started!

STEP 1 Solder the negative lead of the solar panel to the negative lead of the capacitor, and then connect both to the negative port of the motor. See Figure 4.28.

FIGURE 4.28

FIGURE 4.28 Connect the negative leads of the three components.

STEP 2 Connect the negative lead of the solar panel to the negative lead of the capacitor, and then solder both to the negative port of the motor. See Figure 4.29.

FIGURE 4.29

FIGURE 4.29 You guessed it—now connect the negatives.

What you basically have is a motor that turns when direct sunlight strikes the solar panel. What you do with that is up to you. Some folks have added a rubber knob to the motor, and the whole assembly rolls in circles like a one-wheeled car.

I decided to have the motor, cap, and solar panel rotate around the hub, with the hub fixed in place. You can see what I came up with in Figure 4.26.

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