On the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, kids raced solar-powered gadgets across the Science Plaza of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.
The race was the highlight of Florida Power & Light’s first “Day of Solar” on Wednesday at the museum. The event coincided with Frost Science summer camp’s “Crazy Contraptions” week, which focuses on engineering.
The camp runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 11, with each week featuring a different topic.
On Wednesday, 75 second-through-fifth-grade campers designed a series of solar-powered devices including windmills and puppies under the watchful eye of FPL engineers.
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The day also marked the first close-up look at the FPL Solar Terrace, which houses 240 photovoltaic solar panels that silently generate 66 kilowatts of zero-emissions energy. The panel instillation was a donation from FPL to the museum worth $80,000, FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said.
After building their solar contraptions, the campers staged a friendly competition on the Science Plaza next to FPL’s Solar Trees.
The latest method of bringing solar energy to communities is through solar trees, which the FPL engineers used to explain to the campers how solar power generation works. Located at places like Frost Science and Zoo Miami, the Solar Trees can cost between $50,000 and $70,000, including the installation, Daly said. Two solar trees can be admired at Frost Science, with each tree having the capacity to produce up to 6 kilowatts. One kilowatt of energy is worth about 10 cents.
They are a part of FPL’s Solar Now program, which gives customers a chance to support the development of FPL solar energy projects for an additional $9 to their monthly electric bill. Close to 15,000 Miami-Dade County residents participate in the program, FPL’s Daly said.
“Usually solar panels are far away on a solar farm or up on roof tops — there’s no way to see them up close,” she said. “The installation gives kids a chance to see what it looks like and get them interested.”
Frost Science summer camp counselor Daniel Mannina said the campers already had a great understanding of solar energy and its value to places like South Florida. He’s thankful that he’s spending his summer leading adventures for future scientists.
“After their solar-powered experiments, campers gained a new level of understanding that solar energy can power all parts of our lives,” he said. “It just takes a bit of science, engineering and a whole lot of human imagination to get us there.”
IF YOU GO
What: Frost Science summer camp
Where: 1101 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Cost: $295 per week for museum members and $350 for nonmembers for grades 2-5; $340 for museum members and $400 for nonmembers for grades 6-8