About This Project

The fight against climate change is proving to be a formidable challenge but the youngest generation are a rising force for climate justice. Lead by inspirational peers such as Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, young people all around the world are pushing governments and international corporations to take responsibility for their CO2 emissions, and act to reduce them.

The greatest step we can take towards combatting climate change is the conversion to clean, renewable energy resources such as wind and solar. When we burn fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) are released which harm our environment in many ways. These gases linger in the Earth’s atmosphere, acting as a blanket, gradually warming the planet. The more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, the thicker the blanket becomes.

As scientific researchers at the University of Cambridge (www.strankslab.com) one of our jobs is to discover and develop novel materials that will help provide green energy for future generations, with a focus on producing low-cost solar cell materials. We also have a responsibility to share our research and expertise with others in order to accelerate the uptake of green energy sources and spread awareness of the issues faced by society.

The Primary School Energy Mapping Challenge is one such way to reach out and share the knowledge we have gained from our studies and experiments. With this project we aim to teach budding young scientists at Primary Schools across the UK, about the benefits of renewable energy and its potential to permanently replace fossil fuels.

In this programme, we are asking students to measure the sunlight and wind-speed in their school yards, each day, for a six-week period. By providing measurement instruments and demonstrations we will facilitate development of their investigative skills and scientific mindedness. Pupils will log their data on this online portal which not only describes and contextualises the amount of energy that could be generated by a small wind turbine or solar installation on their school grounds but allows them to compare data with other schools around the country.

This project hopes to give awareness to the youth that will be affected by the climate crisis, while also teaching them important critical thinking and data acquisition skills that are appropriate for this age group (Year 6, Primary 7). Equipped with wind and solar measurement tools, the students will take complete ownership of the project. Throughout, they will be exposed to concepts such as energy, power, electricity, and scientific units.

We are thrilled with the energy and enthusiasm shown by the students so far and hope to keep this project growing across the UK. If your Primary School is interested in joining in on this unique challenge, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Email: et446@cam.ac.uk (Dr Beth Tennyson) or sm2275@cam.ac.uk (Stuart Macpherson)

The Experiments

Check back later for more information about the experiments!

Crunching Numbers

Check back later for more information about crunching numbers!

Unit Conversions

Scientific units are what we use to quantify measurements. It is important to use units when describing how much of something there is, so that other people can understand what you are quantifying.

For example, if Anna wants to tell Bob how long it takes to walk to the shop, she might describe the duration of the walk in units of minutes or seconds. If Bob is familiar with minutes and seconds, then he knows exactly how long the journey is going to take him. As we know, 10 minutes is very different than 10 seconds!

Choosing appropriate/sensible units is also important. If Bob wants to know the distance to the shop, it might be helpful to describe it in metres or kilometres. However, imagine Anna tells Bob the distance in elephants. Unless Bob knows the length of an elephant, this is less helpful!

The size of the unit is also important to consider. A light bulb in your house might use 10 watts of power. Now, the wind turbine that we are using in our model generates up to 7,500 watts of power, and whole wind farms may generate hundreds of times this number! To avoid having to use numbers that are clumsily large or small we can define new units like the kilowatt which is equal to 1000 watts. Therefore, if our wind turbine generates 7,500 watts, this is equal to 7.5 kilowatts, which is much clearer and easier to write.

Use the interactive tool below to find out how different units can affect the calculations we make. We calculate the amount of energy used by an appliance by multiplying the power it requires, by the time it is used. This also works for devices which generate power like solar panels and wind turbines.

Try calculating how much energy a 10 watt lightbulb uses if it is powered on for 60 seconds!

How much energy can we generate if our wind turbine is creating 5,000 watts of electrical power for 2 hours?


Other Useful Resources