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This activity allows students the opportunity to explore different methods for collecting solar energy and using that energy for heating, creating electricity and applying that energy to an industrial process. Experimenting with different types of materials will also allow them to understand how the properties of different materials can drastically affect the outcome of their experiment.

Students will be creating a parabolic trough that will heat one pound of water to as high of a temperature as can be achieved without damaging the water storage container.


  • To increase the students awareness of different types of solar energy capture.
  • To apply knowledge of energy use and efficiency to real life situations.
  • To compare different building materials and techniques to achieve the most efficient outcome.


  • Students should be able to discuss what factors enhance or hinder their attempts at gathering the suns energy.


Plan Time





Science as Inquiry Standard A:

  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.

Physical Science Standard B:

  • Structure and Properties of Matter - The physical properties of compounds reflect the nature of the interactions among its molecules. Carbon atoms can bond to one another to form a variety of structures, including synthetic polymers, oils, and the large molecules essential to life.
  • Chemical Reactions Chemical reactions occur all around us, for example in health care, cooking, cosmetics, and automobiles. Chemical reactions may release or consume energy. Some reactions such as the burning of fossil fuels release large amounts of energy by losing heat and by emitting light. Catalysts, such as metal surfaces, accelerate chemical reactions.
  • Transfer of energy energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, and electricity. Energy is transferred in many ways.
  • Conservation of Energy Everything tends to become less orderly over time. Thus, in all energy transfers, the overall effect is that the energy is spread out uniformly. Examples are the transfer of energy from hotter to cooler objects by conduction, radiation, or convection and the warming of our surroundings when we burn fuels.

Science and Technology Standard E:

  • Identify a problem.
  • Propose designs and choose between alternative solutions.
  • Implement a proposed solution.
  • Evaluate the solution and its consequences.

From The Standards for Technological Literacy

Standard 5: Students will develop an understanding of the effects of technology on the Environment:
L. Decisions regarding the implementation of technologies involve the weighing of trade-offs between predicted positive and negative effects on the environment.


Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving:
L. Many technological problems require a multidisciplinary approach.

Standard 16. Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use energy and power technologies:
N. Power systems must have a source of energy, a process, and loads.

Standard 17. Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use information and communication technologies:
Q. Technological knowledge and processes are communicated using symbols, measurement, conventions, icons, graphic images, and languages that incorporate a variety of visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli.

Standard 18. Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use transportation technologies:
K. Intermodalism is the use of different modes of transportation, such as highways, railways, and waterways as part of an interconnected system that can move people and goods easily from one mode to another.
L. Transportation services and methods have led to a population that is regularly on the move.
M. The design of intelligent and non-intelligent transportation systems depends on many processes and innovative techniques.



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