The Solar Army Across the World

The Solar Army has many branches- SEAL, HARPOON, Juice from Juice, and the Westside Science Club. This map shows all the sites around the world with our various research kits as of Feb 2016. Our solar energy research truly is a global effort! To get involved, check out the pages for each project and see which one is right for you. Follow us on twitter @thesolararmy to see what we’re up to and keep in touch!

CSTA Conference 2016- Palm Springs

For the 3rd year in a row, CCI Solar presented a Juice from Juice workshop at the annual California Science Teacher’s Association conference, this year in Palm Springs. With over 60 attendees and standing room only, the workshop covered the basic background science of dye-sensitized solar cells, how the experiment aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and then the participants got to make their very own DSSC. We look forward to many more classrooms across California implementing Juice from Juice in their science curriculum!

SEAL Kickoff 2016

Students, teachers and mentors from the 15 Southern California SEAL Teams gathered at Caltech on Sept 24 to kickoff the next year of SEAL research. Several past and current mentors presented on the motivation and background science for the SEAL project to inspire the students for the upcoming year. There was also a demo of the SEAL kit, the new HARPOON kit, and of the introduction of the new SoCal Infantry Blog! We’re looking forward to great collaboration over the whole school year and hopefully some wonderful results!

Boston's Science Club for Girls

A Boston chapter (MIT-Harvard) of the Solar Army is starting this fall through local organization, Science Club for Girls, which offers after-school science programs to keen young women. We participated in a week-long SCFG internship program this summer in July. 15 enthusiastic girls came to MIT campus to research solar energy. After a week of experiments, the girls brainstormed activities for how to best teach concepts to younger children and then took their new knowledge to a local day care and engaged in games that taught the children some of the science behind solar energy. If you are interested in joining the Boston Battalion, contact the Science Club for Girls.

BCCE Conference 2016- Greeley, Colorado

Over the summer, Dr. Jennifer Schuttlefield Christus and research student, Amanda Leichtfuss presented 2 workshops at the 2016 Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE) at the University of Northern Colorado. The university hosted chemistry educators and students seeking new experiments to incorporate into the classroom. Schuttlefield Christus and Leichtfuss ran workshops on HARPOON & Juice from Juice with 20 & 30 attendees at the workshops respectively. Participants got to try the experiments hands on and learn about ways to incorporate them into their curriculum.

Summer at Caltech

Congratulations to our 2016 summer students! We had 9 brilliant high students from across Southern California participate in this year’s summer research program at Caltech. They were led by visiting undergraduate student from Fairmont State University and the West Virginia Solar Army Brigade, Allison Moore. With Moore’s guidance, the students worked on 3 separate projects studying the Solar Army’s SHArK, SEAL and HARPOON kits. You can read the final papers they wrote based on their research here. Unfortunately this was our last year of the high school summer program, but you can check out Caltech’s Community Science Academy for an exciting summer opportunity on campus.

SEAL Con VII

On Saturday May 14, 2016 over 130 high school and college students and their teachers participated in the 7th annual SEAL Con event at Caltech. There were 24 student talks and posters, all showcasing the wonderful research these schools have done throughout the year. After lunch and the poster session, students got to go on a tour of the chemistry labs on campus. General Harry Gray sent a virtual message to the troops commending his troops on a job well done. Everyone enjoyed their certificates and T-shirts honoring them for their work on the search for new metal oxide catalysts for water-splitting.

HARPOON kits now available!

Starting April 2016, after years of development and testing, the HARPOON kit is now available for purchase for use at your high school or university. The HARPOON kit can be used as a citizen science project or as part of a chemistry lab course. HARPOON has been aligned to NGSS standards and comes with many accompanying resources for teachers and students. This is the least expensive of our citizen science kits costing only $120 for all components! Check out the website to learn more about HARPOON and contact us today to order your kit.

Juice from Juice in Cayey

Prof Jorge Colón and his students from University of Puerto Rico presented the Juice from Juice program to students at Escuela Superior Benjamin Harrison on April 4, 2016 in his hometown of Cayey, PR. Prof Colón started with a talk entitled “Solar Energy, Climate Change, and the Caribbean Brigade of the Solar Army.”  Then his graduate student Julissa González and two undergraduate students, Liz Nieves and Christian Aponte, as well as educator Diego Andrés Cantor, conducted the workshop with the students. Julissa did a wonderful job leading the workshop, and Prof. Colón enjoyed coming back home and visiting his sister who is also a teacher at the school. Thanks to everyone for a successful event!

UDEM visits CCI Solar from Monterrey, Mexico

Ten high school students from Prepa Universidad de Monterrey visited Caltech on March 10 as part of their week long trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. The students were learning about the sciences as they travelled to a couple of universities and various museums (and a few amusement parks). While at Caltech, the students got to tour the campus, listen to talks from solar energy researchers, and try their hand at making some solar cells. They also had a fun lunch at the dining hall chatting with current Caltech undergraduates.

San Diego Science Festival 2016

CCI Solar hosted a booth at the San Diego Science Festival Expo for the second time on March 5, 2016. The festival had over 25,000 visitors, many of whom stopped by our booth to make dye-sensitized solar cells with blackberry juice or to learn how fuel cells and solar panels work. It was a beautiful sunny day- perfect for sharing knowledge about solar energy with the public. Thank you to our friends at UCSD who also helped staff the booth!

CCI Solar Annual Meeting

There were 50 high school SEAL students at the CCI Solar Annual Meeting on Feb 6, 2016 from 7 different SoCal high schools. Each school team presented a poster with their work so far this year. In addition to learning from each other’s work, the students got to interact with the Center’s scientists and check out the latest research at the poster session. There were also demonstrations of the SEAL, SHArK 3.0 and HARPOON kits in addition to a station for making Juice from Juice DSSCs. It was great way to share results and new ideas, hopefully leading to some fruitful projects!

Earth Day Fair with LA Dept of Sanitation

Volunteers from Caltech came out to spread the knowledge of solar energy to attendees of the LA Department of Sanitation’s Earth Day Fair. In addition to potting their own plants, learning about recycling and protecting the environment, families at the fair got to make their own dye-sensitized solar cells at the CCI Solar booth.  They also got to check out some photovoltaics and a solar fuel cell in action too! It was a great, green day for everyone.

Welcome to the Solar Army website! We are the outreach branch of the NSF Center for Chemical Innovation in Solar Fuels (CCI Solar) centered at the California Institute of Technology.

Enough sunlight falls on the earth in one hour to power all the energy needs of our planet for a year.  If we can capture the energy in sunlight and use it to generate a chemical fuel, we will no longer need to burn fossil fuels, will no longer add to the green house gases in the atmosphere, will no longer need to purchase oil from other countries, and will have a sustainable fuel that is renewed every day from the sun.

The Solar Army wants to capture the energy in sunlight and use it to split water and yield a chemical fuel, hydrogen. We will need two great catalysts to do this: one to oxidize water to oxygen; the other to reduce protons to hydrogen. We have several outreach projects where high school and undergraduate students can join in on the search for these catalysts. Check out the SHArK, SEAL and HARPOON pages to learn more about how to get involved in the search for non-toxic, efficient, cheap, earth-abundant materials that will change the way the world gets its power!

The Solar Army also has a project called Juice from Juice where students and teachers can learn about solar energy in the context of making dye-sensitized solar cells with blackberry juice. Through assembly and testing of DSSCs and related activities in chemistry, physics or biology modules, students  in grades 3-12 can learn the fundamentals of solar energy. Check out the Juice from Juice page to learn more about the activities, get lesson plan downloads, kit purchasing information or to sign up for one of our professional development workshops.