High School Teacher Needs Help

Thread Starter

jaysonengland

Joined May 6, 2022
16
I am a high school science teacher. I am teaching environmental science and I am looking to do some small projects with solar phone chargers that the kids build and maybe can take home. I would also like to do a lab where the kids create vertical access wind turbine blades that they can test. We can 3D print small versions of the veins and take them out and test them. I know how to wire fans and lights in the house but the smaller the item I sometimes get lost in language and units. I want the kids to learn about basic circuits which I can teach before we jump into the projects. This is a kit that I was looking at. Since I do woodworking I can cut the wood portions for the kids and save a bit of money.

https://www.amazon.com/Kitables-Portable-Charger-Android-Curriculum/dp/B01LYVV9QU

I am looking for someone that might be willing to mentor/help with this. I will do the leg work of ordering parts and materials. I am willing to learn so that I can work projects on my own. Is there anyone knowledgeable enough they would be willing to help I would like to get in touch.
 

panic mode

Joined Oct 10, 2011
2,131
wow... a real teacher focusing on learning something that is actually valuable. who wouldn't want to help?
where are you located? someone may be close by.
and i am sure plenty of members would love to help even if it is done remotely, perhaps using this forum
 
Last edited:

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
14,459
Welcome to AAC!
This is a kit that I was looking at. Since I do woodworking I can cut the wood portions for the kids and save a bit of money.
That's an expensive kit and it looks like it requires some soldering.
1651850554177.png

If you think you can save money by cutting the wood (which looks like it's laser cut because the tolerance need to be close enough for the box to not fall apart), are you thinking about cloning the kit?

Do you know the specs for the kit? Since it has a battery, there must be a board to control charging the battery and a regulator to step-up the battery voltage to 5V to charge the phone.
 

Thread Starter

jaysonengland

Joined May 6, 2022
16
I don't know that this is the best route to go but just giving an idea of something that I can find. I do scroll work and I can get pretty tight tolerances on the cuts. While not laser cut I can get it close. This is sort of what I was thinking. It may be a case where I have to do a single charger for the school that the kids can use from time to time. We may be able to replicate it down the road so the kids have more stations. I am really open to suggestions as to the direction I go with it.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,967
1st off, thank you. If you have been teaching more than a few years and still care this much, then my thanks is doubled.

With regard to the box, this is not a weather proof enclosure so there's really no point in using something other than a cardboard box in my opinion. One's time is not worthless, and the amount of time it would take me to make all those wooden boxes would amount to several times more than just buying the laser cut pieces. But I wouldn't buy those either. I'd just tell all the kids to bring a shoe box to class (or an Amazon box, Tupperware, or just about anything). Of course only half of them will, so you might want to start collecting boxes yourself.

IMO sourcing as many re-purposed things as possible teaches another lesson: You don't need to have money to achieve your goals. You can do anything you want if you're resourceful.

You might take that concept a step further and rather than buy expensive kits, buy solar path lights and harvest the solar cells. Amazon sells these solar lights very cheap. My wife has bought them by the dozens and they are all over the property. It is no big tragedy when one gets mowed over or relocated by the dog.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
14,459
It may be a case where I have to do a single charger for the school that the kids can use from time to time.
That's not going to be much of a learning exercise for high school students.
We may be able to replicate it down the road so the kids have more stations.
I hate to be the one to have to rain on your parade, but that becomes a sticking point. Because this kit is a commercial product, attempts to deprive the creator of revenue could be problematic.
EDIT: Added missing word.

What is it that you want to teach your students?
 
Last edited:

Thread Starter

jaysonengland

Joined May 6, 2022
16
I am not looking to reproduce it and sell it. I am trying to teach my kids some simple real world skills using the solar panels. Learning circuits, soldering, renewable energy, etc. I simply used that link as a jumping off point to show something very similar to what I am thinking. Unfortunately I couldn't afford to do something commercial like that for 120+ students any way. I could do it as suggested out of a rubbermaid tub. I could do a single charging station or bank. I am kicking the can down the road to try to figure out some things that the kids would enjoy and that is financially feasible.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,967
That's not going to be much of a learning exercise for high school students.
I hate to be the one to have to rain on your parade, but that becomes a sticking point. Because this kit is a commercial product, attempts to deprive the creator of revenue could be problematic.
EDIT: Added missing word.

What is it that you want to teach your students?
<snip>Selling unassembled kits is hardly "creating" and there is absolutely no law, codified or social, which precludes one building something from readily available components just because someone on Amazon sells a kit containing the same.

Moderator edit: removed expletive
 

Thread Starter

jaysonengland

Joined May 6, 2022
16
We could use the tinker cad to create a small enough box that the kids could use for this purpose. Obviously we would have to source all the components first before that design began. Again I don't know all the answers yet but that is why I decided to throw the post out and see if maybe someone had done something similar with their kids etc. I am not out to steal anyone's creative property. I am out to teach my kids how to build stuff and maybe start a creative love for a career path. I will probably approach it the same way as an engineer where the kids have to research their needs first and design a solution. BUT, I want to bring it full circle where the kids can actually build what they use to solve the problem.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,967
We could use the tinker cad to create a small enough box that the kids could use for this purpose. Obviously we would have to source all the components first before that design began. Again I don't know all the answers yet but that is why I decided to throw the post out and see if maybe someone had done something similar with their kids etc. I am not out to steal anyone's creative property. I am out to teach my kids how to build stuff and maybe start a creative love for a career path. I will probably approach it the same way as an engineer where the kids have to research their needs first and design a solution. BUT, I want to bring it full circle where the kids can actually build what they use to solve the problem.
Don't worry yourself about "stealing anyone's creative property." I have no idea what inspired Dennis' comment but it was out of line. You're doing the right and admirable thing, teaching them this. We need more people like you in the world. Please do not feel apprehensive about discussing any aspect of this for fear of offending anyone here.

Check this out. Solar panel charging kits for $2 each, some disassembly required. Comes with a solar cell, NiMH battery, and they threw in some LEDs you won't need but can keep on had for future exercises.
 

Thread Starter

jaysonengland

Joined May 6, 2022
16
I don't want to use anyone's intellectual properties. I just want my kids to learn something useful they can use down the road. People may see things I may not be thinking of. I just need the help with the basic stuff like the components and I can go from there. I plan to build one ahead of the students for "practice" so that I can foresee any issues. I have the summer to do this so that way I can get ahead.
 

DrBearEE

Joined Feb 3, 2020
8
As others have pointed out, the box is not the critical part of this build. Use whatever tools you are comfortable with to do an enclosure- cardboard, balsa wood, double stick tape, freezer boxes, whatever you have available.

As for the electronics, that phone charger kit has a PV panel, a battery, one (I think) diode and two circuit boards which I assume are one sub-circuit to charge the battery from the PV, and one to charge the phone off the battery. That's where the engineering and learning comes in: someone analyzed the problem, broke it down into blocks, and found sub-circuits to meet the needs of each section.

So then the questions become about the overall system. If we start from the assumption that this is a cell-phone charger, then we need to make 5 Volt DC power, similar to a USB port, from the charged battery. In the proposed kit, that's one of the PCBs.

Then the other part is to charge the battery from the PV, charge control, optimizing for available power, etc. That is the other board in the proposed kit. What is the battery voltage? How much energy can it hold? etc. etc.

From a curriculum point of view, you could look at the engineering process of the whole project, look at the blocks and how they work together. You could measure the electrical energy movement in the system. You could do work to predict what the voltages and currents should be, and test to make sure things are working as expected, is energy flowing where you think it should? And if not, why not? Possibilities are deep and wide.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,967
I don't want to use anyone's intellectual properties. I just want my kids to learn something useful they can use down the road. People may see things I may not be thinking of. I just need the help with the basic stuff like the components and I can go from there. I plan to build one ahead of the students for "practice" so that I can foresee any issues. I have the summer to do this so that way I can get ahead.
Great, so you've had scared out of you the willingness to dissect and learn from observation of findings. Great job @dl324, you've undermined the scientific method for 120 students!

Well then, I guess if this is how it has to be (it doesn't, but since it does now) then you will probably benefit from walking through this yourself in the way that you will do with your students. What that looks like to you, is of course up to you, but to me it looks like: start by specifying your requirements, goals, and other criteria.
You want to charge a phone, right?
Which phone?
How fast?
With how much sunlight?
How many volts and how many amps does it take to charge that phone that fast?
What size solar panel does it take to generate that many volts and amps with that much sunlight?
What is your budget?
Where can you purchase such a panel (alone, not harvested from some other device, because God forbid...)?
Is it within budget?
What other components are (or might be) required (voltage regulator, storage battery, etc.)?
What level of complexity are you comfortable with? This will inform whether you're buying discrete compenents and soldering boards, or buying pre-made modules.
Once you have a parts list, How much does it cost? Can you afford it x120?

You can pick something common like an iPhone19.5-S-X-Max-Pro-Plus and run the numbers.

Or if the process I described above is not along the lines of what you had in mind, feel free to say so; I won't be offended. I or someone here will be glad to fill in the numbers and specify some parts for you; I'm not trying to make this harder than it needs to be, I just don't want to deprive you of your own learning experience if that's valuable to you.

NOTE that I do not claim any stake of intellectual property over any advice I have given, or might give, or any parts I might specify (whether or not said parts could be compiled into a written list and referred to as a "kit"), or any other product of my mind that may be disclosed in the execution of conversation in this forum thread. I will not sue you for using what information I make public by offering it up in text or pictographic form here or on Amazon.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
26,088
I congratulate you for your efforts and for taking the initiative. Don't let me dampen your spirits and enthusiasm for wanting to be an exceptional teacher. I do have some concerns.

There are two requirements for being an exceptional teacher, (1) being knowledgeable about the subject you are about to teach and (2) being knowledgeable in knowing how to disseminate that knowledge effectively in a classroom.

I have personally witnessed teachers who were attempting to teach physics, electricity and electronics and it was evident that they were not fully knowledgeable on the subject. Electricity is much more complex than talking about batteries, motors, lightbulbs, wires, electrons, etc.

(I have spent over 45 years teaching physics, computers and electronics.)

You were forthright in admitting your lack of knowledge about the subject. You obviously want to correct this deficiency by seeking out assistance from more knowledgeable and experienced persons in the field. By all means, take the time and effort to acquaint yourself with the intricacies of the amazing world of electronics. Build your own knowledge base by reading and experiment with various kits, circuits, experiments, projects.

The worst thing we would want any teacher to do is to lead students down the wrong path by telling them something that is totally inaccurate.

I cannot think of a better place than AAC for seeking assistance and advice. There are many very knowledgeable, experienced, and helpful members here who would be more than happy to assist.

Look for the Education tab at the menu bar at the top of this page. You may find many useful tutorials for you to brush up on your knowledge.

Welcome to AAC!
 

Thread Starter

jaysonengland

Joined May 6, 2022
16
Great, so you've had scared out of you the willingness to dissect and learn from observation of findings. Great job


No one has scared me out of doing anything. I just want to make it clear that I won't "steal" anyone's kit. I still intend to do the project, just may have to do it a different way to make it "ok" with everyone's opinion. I am not concerned right now with the "container" as much as I am making sure I understand the innerworkings so that I don't give my kids bad info. No matter how I do it someone will disagree and think I have done something "wrong." I want to make sure that the unit is sound and that the kids have the ability to understand the whys as much as the hows. My kids need to see the forest and not just the trees.

I hope that all makes sense and thank you for your passion and sticking up for me in this situation. I truly do want to learn this, not to just break it down but for my knowledge. I don't have very long until retirement and I am always looking for a skill set to aid me in my next career.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,967
No one has scared me out of doing anything. I just want to make it clear that I won't "steal" anyone's kit. I still intend to do the project, just may have to do it a different way to make it "ok" with everyone's opinion.
I just want to make it clear that a "kit" can't be "stolen" and that you are under zero compulsion to adhere to the misguided scruples of any individual who would deliberately sabotage the educational process. It is 100% Legal and 98% ethically kosher to procure individually the commercially available components to assemble a thing, even if those components happen to offered together as a kit somewhere. Even if your parts list is inspired, up to and including 100%, by the parts included in that kit.

making sure I understand the innerworkings so that I don't give my kids bad info. [...] I want to make sure that the unit is sound and that the kids have the ability to understand the whys as much as the hows. My kids need to see the forest and not just the trees.
100%! I will follow your educational journey with as much anticipation as my busy life allows, and provide as much help as I can to prepare the future generation. I think that one of the best educational tools (at least in this field, maybe no so much in medicine) is in teardown, inspection, and tinkering with things built by those with vastly more knowledge than we ourselves possess. Breaking things gives you insight into why things break. Building things that don't work gives you insight into why things that do work, do work. That is half the reason for why I recommend harvesting the parts from other products. That and cost savings. It is 100% Legal and 200% ethically kosher to tear apart an Amazon solar light and use the guts to build a solar phone charger.

No matter how I do it someone will disagree and think I have done something "wrong."
Well this obviously isn't your first experience with online forums! ;)
Yes, no matter how you proceed, the peanut gallery will be divided on the technical aspects. That is a normal and healthy kind of disagreement. I am (or can make myself be) fine with that. If you choose to act on someone else's advice to use one transistor over a different one that I recommended, I won't make a fuss. But this issue of the implication of legal/ethical breach is totally different, and outside the scope of the normal and healthy kind of disagreement. What was said by @dl324 is unacceptable and I won't stand for it. You just got here so you won't know, that I am one of the most agreeable people here and that what I said (the part now covered in "<snip>") is totally out of character for me. Out of character for him to have said what he said, too. I don't know why he said it and I'm hopeful that he will print a retraction.

The conspiracy theorist who lives in the back of my mind wants me to point out that the only person he could think of who would have motive to make such a wholly false assertion about replicating that Amazon kit, is the amazon seller of the kit. Or maybe just an overzealous person who also sells electronics kits and looks out for their own.

I hope that all makes sense
Yes it makes sense, in a tragic sort of way. On the internet there's no way to know who you're talking to. Everyone's input is equally valid unless you have your own pile of knowledge upon which to bounce thrown stones. If you're told by one person (paraphrased) "that's illegal!" or "you'll get sued!" and told by another (paraphrased) "nah, man. it's totally fine! More than fine even!," and you haven't already spent years of your life operating in a capacity where you had to know better, any wise and discerning person would err on the side of caution and avoid the supposedly judicially "hazardous" advice.

thank you for your passion and sticking up for me in this situation.
You caught me on a good day (or bad, depending on perspective). I'm not usually this passionate, and I have a feeling that my "passion" will grow to an unhealthy level (if not already there) if I keep feeding it, and I'll turn myself into the force that drives you away. So I'm going to do my best to push this down and stop talking about it. My apologies if my drama here has tainted your thread.
I truly do want to learn this, not to just break it down but for my knowledge. I don't have very long until retirement and I am always looking for a skill set to aid me in my next career.
Ok, good to know! So let's see what you can come up with in regards to the specs of the solar charger you'd like to build.
 
Last edited:

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
26,088
You are entitled to pursue your journey as you wish. No one here on AAC has the right to tell you what to do or what you can or cannot do.

My advise, for the benefit of both you and your students, would be for you to vet your experiments here on AAC so that the knowledgeable, experienced and kind members here can give you some advise and suggestions. The positive outcome can only be that you will end up with a better, entertaining, educational and more meaningful experience for your students.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
5,659
Great, so you've had scared out of you the willingness to dissect and learn from observation of findings. Great job


No one has scared me out of doing anything. I just want to make it clear that I won't "steal" anyone's kit. I still intend to do the project, just may have to do it a different way to make it "ok" with everyone's opinion. I am not concerned right now with the "container" as much as I am making sure I understand the innerworkings so that I don't give my kids bad info. No matter how I do it someone will disagree and think I have done something "wrong." I want to make sure that the unit is sound and that the kids have the ability to understand the whys as much as the hows. My kids need to see the forest and not just the trees.

I hope that all makes sense and thank you for your passion and sticking up for me in this situation. I truly do want to learn this, not to just break it down but for my knowledge. I don't have very long until retirement and I am always looking for a skill set to aid me in my next career.
Something that strikes me and no one has mentioned is that this “solar charger” appears to be a rather lousy design based on commodity modules available for one or two dollars each but the parts are not intended to be a solar charger and the efficiency and rate of charge will be exceedingly low.

The modules concerned include a TP4560-based 1A Lithium single cell charger (breakout boards like the one pictured are about $2 is you want them in a hurry and much less if you can wait). This is a perfectly good IC and works quite well I use them frequently but they are not designed for use with a PV panel (solar cell) and will work very poorly with one.

In addition the current from the cell can’t be more than ~100mA in full sunlight (and I am being very generous). This means if the LiPo in the picture is, say, 450mAH, which seems about right for the size, it will take many hours in full sunlight (not the most likely scenario) to charge it. And, if it has a larger capacity it will be worse.

The boost converter (with the USB output) is another cheap module costing a couple of bucks. It is generic and not specially brilliant for the application. What is left is a diode. This “kit” doesn’t reach the level of “intellectual property”, in fact the case is probably the closest thing to that and it might even be form a public domain source for laser cutting patterns, and if not, you can surely find one that is.

The bottom line of my post is that this kit stinks and you can do much better. If you really want to teach about PV panels you should be using an MPPT module something like this one (not an endorsement, just an example) and along side teaching basic circuits provide some information on practical solar power circuits and the need for an MPPT controller.

So, I propose this. Think of something you would like to do (the solar charger is fine) but think in terms of educational goals. Describe here in a new thread those goals and let AAC crowdsource a design for you that you can keep open source.

I feel you are working backwards. As the teacher, describe the instructional problem you are trying to solve, there are so many people here who will happily help you put together the technological parts to solve that problem. Have a good think about what you want your students to learn, describe it, and let’s see how it goes. That “kit” is 20 minutes work to throw together, you—we—can do better.

[EDIT: Turned "lards" into "boards".]
 
Last edited:

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
4,897
@Yaakov has said much of what I was thinking.

What are you hoping to teach the students by building this kit? And what do they know to start with? If they don’t know what voltage and current are, how can they understand the operation of the kit as anything but magic? You need quite a base of electronics knowledge before you can understand what a buck boost converter or a battery management module is doing.

Bob
 
Top