Yellowknife students warm to concept of tiny solar cars

Grade 7 students at Range Lake North School spent Wednesday morning building solar-powered cars. In the afternoon, they raced them in the school’s parking lot.  

The workshop was hosted by Relay Education facilitator Kaylyn Jackson, who says the organization’s goal is to “provide education to kids and youth focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math.”

The solar cars are part of what the Canadian renewable energy charity calls “the kids’ world of energy,” which teaches students about renewable sources.


Students worked with corrugated plastic, wheels and axles, a solar panel, and a motor to design cars that moved on their own when placed in the sun. They spent around 90 minutes building the cars before testing them outside.

A solar car makes its way across Range Lake North School’s parking lot.

Sergey Sedraykan, a student in Joanne Townsend’s class, explained the building process to Cabin Radio.

“First, you had to brainstorm a shape for your car, and then you had to measure where you put your wheels, and then you would cut the shape of your car,” Sergey said. The shape comes from the corrugated plastic.

“Then, you put the metal rod through the plastic and attached the wheels. One of the wheels had a gear and its motor had a gear, so when you attached the gear, the motor and wheels would spin.

“Then, you attach a solar panel to the gear motor.”


With some solar cars driving in circles, and some being pushed off sidewalk curbs, students were excited to see their hard work pay off.

Student Larah Peters said building the cars was “a lot of fun, but not as fun as watching them race.”

Her team designed a car called Poochie, or Ratmobile. It had paper ears, a paper nose, and even a long tail to match the shape of a rat.

Solar-powered cars designed by Range Lake North students. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
Ratmobile, aka Poochie, on a test run
Ratmobile, aka Poochie, on a test run. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio

“I was drawing it out, and [my team] was like, ‘Oh, it looks like a rat!’ So then we thought we should make it a rat,” said Peters.


The team’s car successfully won its first race. Although it lost the following races, that didn’t stop the team from laughing and telling each other they were proud of Poochie.

Larah agreed with classmates Maya Fuentes and Emma-Grace Wells that the number-one lesson learned was how solar panels work.

“You had to be careful to not stand over them or your shadow would make the car stop moving, because the sun wasn’t hitting the solar panel any more,” said Maya.

“You also had to make sure all the wires were connected properly, or your car would move the wrong way, like backwards or in circles,” said Emma-Grace.

The Grade 7 class concluded solar will be the “energy source of the future.”