Idea for the Classroom

Introduce students to the science behind solar cells and how they work. Then, using the infographic, ask students to answer the questions below: 

  1. What is a simplified, general idea of what solar panels do? 
  2. What is the role of the charged layers of a solar panel? Why are they necessary? 
  3. How is this process similar to how a battery works? (Students may need extra background on this)
  4. Describe the process of using sunlight to generate electric current. 
  5. What is the primary difference between a solar cell that runs a typical calculator compared to a solar array that drives electricity in a home? 
  6. Do you think that solar panels work during cloudy days? Why or why not? 

After students have discussed the answers, present them with this situation (they may work on this individually or in pairs): A homeowner decides to have solar panels placed on their house. Imagine you are the engineer determining where to place the solar cells. Ask: Where would you place them? Why would you place them there? How would you determine this? If your budget was limited, what are some other investments you might make to reduce the overall cost of installing solar panels?



device containing one or more electric cells which store chemical energy that can be converted into electrical power.


set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge.


person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

solar panel

group of cells that converts sunlight into electricity.