“I didn’t know you can run a car on water.”
This was a reaction by one of the students during the "Building the Car of the Future" lab. The two-week lab was part of the Alternative Energy Lesson for the Environmental Science class at Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate School.
A mix of 6th and 8th grade students built electric, solar, and hydrogen fuel cell cars using the Fuel Cell Car Experiment Kits loaned by the University of Hawaii's
STEM Pre-Academy. Not only did they build functional cars, they also tested the voltage of each power source they used to run the cars. The class also went outside to see how the angle of the solar panel affected the voltage being produced.
Another part of the Alternative Energy lesson was to understand the cost of the electricity. Students were divided into groups of three and each group was assigned to a station with an electrical device along with Kill-A-Watt Meter (loaned by STEM Pre-Academy). Groups rotated through stations and recorded the data from all the devices — then calculated out the estimated cost per day, week, month, and year for each device.
The students learned it cost about $6.06 to charge your phone for one year, to $148.00 to run a laptop computer.
“I think that this lab was a good experience," said another student. "We found out how much we have to pay to have electricity to run our homes.”
Students were able to bring the Kill-A-Watt Meters home to survey their electricity use for one week, calculating the total voltage and cost. Based on their household consumption, they reflected on how they could personally conserve energy use.
Shepherd-Jones has a Donors Choose site up seeking funds for a new science project for his keiki — learning about electricity with a Van De Graaff Generator and a plasma ball. "It is the beginning of a new school year; I want my 6th graders to start off with a bang and “generate” interest in electricity. My class will get a real shock learning about static electricity with the Van De Graaff Generator. They will do hands-on experiments with electricity and the “sparks will fly." To learn more or donate, visit
The University of Hawaii's STEM Pre-Academy is a state-funded program, focused on public middle school teachers in Hawaii. It fosters inspiration and relevance in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics primarily through initiatives, such as teacher workshops, technical focus sessions, and collaborative interaction between middle school teachers and subject matter experts. This teacher-driven multidisciplinary program helps middle school public educators develop and implement research and technology based student curriculum including lessons, activities and projects.