(L-R) Rebecca Saive, Mónica Morales Masis, Rachel Woods-Robinson, and Lennart Bastian on a bike path in front of a quintessential Dutch windmill.
A bike trip to teach about solar energy and science
The association “Cycle for Science” organizes cycling trips that stop at schools to give hands-on lessons about climate change and renewable energy. This year, the team used material from EPFL.
From September 15 to 23, Rachel Woods-Robinson and Mónica Morales Masis cycled across the Netherlands. On the way, they stopped at schools to teach science.
“The idea was to communicate the pressing need for renewable energy, how science can be fun and interactive, and give real examples of who scientists are and what scientists do,” explains Woods-Robinson, a PhD student at UC Berkeley and co-founder of “Cycle for Science”. Her travel teammate, Mónica Morales Masis, is a former EPFL team-leader at the Photovoltaics-Lab (PV-Lab) and is currently an assistant professor at the University of Twente, Netherlands. The two scientists were also joined by assistant professor Rebecca Saive (UTwente) and mathematician Lennart Bastian (TU München).
This solar-energy-themed trip used materials donated by EPFL. “I spent this summer at EPFL’s PV-Lab for a ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship,” says Woods-Robinson. “There, I studied and tested new contact layers for silicon solar cells, and performed some modeling to better understand the role of these layers.” The head of the lab, professor Christophe Ballif, then generously donated a variety of silicon solar panels and transparent conductive oxides (TCOs). EPFL’s spin-off HiLyte Power also sponsored the trip, donating solar panels, motors, LEDs, and other materials to test the solar cells with.
The equipment enabled hands-on lessons with schoolchildren. Kids built and tested their own dye-sensitized solar cells (invented by EPFL’s professor Michael Graetzel) using common household materials: blackberries, pencil graphite, toothpaste, glass, Q-tips, and paper clips.
The scientists also demonstrated the higher efficiency of the silicon solar panels. “Then we used this interactive activity as a launching point to discuss real-world challenges of photovoltaics, including grid integration, and the need for energy storage,” concludes Woods-Robinson.
This was one of four “Cycle for Science” trips so far, and more adventures are on the horizon.
Nathalie Jollien, Mediacom
TENNIS DE TABLE
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