Easy Science Fair Project: Solar Powered Mini House

When I was a child I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I could go on an all expense paid trip to Washington DC and explore all that city had to offer. The catch? I had to be one of the winners in the school science fair. At first I was a bit intimidated about winning but then I came up with the following idea and found myself headed for Washington DC!! Now I am going to share my idea for a miniature solar powered house with you!!
First you need to find a small solar panel. I found mine at Radio Shack but I presume that other stores such as the Smithsonian or Discovery may have these as well. With the advent of the web you may even be able to find these online. These panels are an exact replica of a real solar panel you would find on the roof of a real solar powered house. The one I found had a fan attachment but you could also find them with light attachments. Either of these will work just fine.

Next you need to either gather some scrap wood or acquire a small dollhouse kit such as a one or two room cottage size. I was always handy with a hammer so I built a little attic size room. If you are not that handy with a hammer the dollhouse kits can be found at any hobby store, are inexpensive and can be glued together with relative ease. You will need to make some modifications to the dollhouse kit however so don’t start building just yet. You will need a hobby knife or Dremel tool and a drill to modify the roof so gather these items along with one or two one inch by two inch pieces of Plexi glass and a big bottle of Aileen’s Tacky Glue.

Well, that is all you need for supplies believe it or not. Unless of course you would like to add some paint, flooring, shingles, siding and draperies. I did this to mine just because I liked the look of it better then the rough product. If you do decide to pump it up a bit scrap paint and wallpaper left over from mom and dad’s around the house projects make for excellent interior and exterior wall coverings. Leftover fabric from mom’s sewing or from clothing you are throwing out makes excellent draperies. Leftover asphalt shingles from dad’s latest roof repairs can be cut with heavy duty scissors into small squares and glued on the roof for shingles. As for flooring, think out of the box. Paint little wood planks on floors with brown paint as a base and black paint for cracks between planks. Use a base of White paint that is dried and add black paint squares to create a tile floor. Use old wash clothes cut to desirable shapes for scatter rugs. This will give you an appealing finished product that is sure to wow the judges.

Now that you have everything let’s put it all together. First, build and decorate your dollhouse according to its instructions, leaving the roof off. Have a parent help you to drill a hole through the roof making sure the hole is located just above a room. Now, again with a parent’s help, add one to two square holes measuring three quarters of an inch by one and three quarters inch. You can use a Dremel tool or a very sharp hobby knife for this job. These holes will be the skylights which are extremely essential in any good solar home. Now glue your pieces of Plexi glass (These can be custom cut for free from the store you bought them from in most cases.) to what will become the underneath of your roof. Allow to dry thoroughly then flip your roof over and glue your solar panel to the top of the roof being careful to feed the wires through before gluing permanently in place. Once the solar panel is dry and secure flip the roof back over to expose its underside and attach the light or fan to the panel using the wires and the instruction sheet that came with the kit. This may sound scary but it is very easy and extremely safe as you are dealing with very low voltage. Now you can glue your roof to your dollhouse and put on your little shingles. I would like to note here that if you don’t have shingles you can paint the roof black prior to putting in the skylights and the solar panel.

Well, that is all there is to building it now let’s move on to presenting your masterpiece. Now you will need a light source. For this you will need to know if the presentation hall has an electrical outlet available to you. If they do get yourself a sturdy box or other item that can be used to raise a desk lamp up off of the table’s surface. A curved neck or goose neck lamp is best here as this will become your imitation sun and it will need to be able to be posed. Place your lamp on your box and flex its neck so it floods the dollhouse roof with light. Voila!! Now your solar light or fan should turn on within a few moments providing cooling breezes or lots of light to your imaginary inhabitants. Don’t be upset when it doesn’t work immediately because it takes time for the solar cell to store its charge. Also, don’t forget to try your project prior to presentation day to ensure everything is in working order. Your skylights will also add tons of “sun” light which is an important part of a solar house. In the event you don’t have electric access in your presentation room bring along a high voltage camp light and use that instead. It wont work as well but will do in a pinch.

Well, good luck with your project and be sure to tell Doc all about those awesome prizes you will be winning with this fun and rewarding project.