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K-12 Students

Information and Opportunities for Students in Elementary and Junior High School

 "Juice from Juice" The Caltech CCI will work with the Caltech Precollege Science Institute, CAPSI, to develop inquiry-based units for the high school curriculum based around dye sensitized solar cells. CAPSI, led by Prof. Jerry Pine at Caltech, is a highly successful program that is a partnership between school districts and Caltech to develop inquiry-based science units for use at the pre-college level. CAPSI works with the Pasadena Unified School District, a predominantly minority district, and has the backing of the PUSD superintendent. In a joint process, teachers and PP researchers will help develop and disseminate inquiry-based science instructional units. A typical approach involves graduate students working with master high-school teachers to develop each unit, which is trial-taught in the developers classrooms, then disseminated to all the Pasadena teachers, and evaluated. After the units have been perfected, they will be distributed as proven curriculum units to other school districts involved in our CCI, and disseminated nationally.

Our first inquiry-based unit will be built around the use of dye-sensitized solar cells for conversion of sunlight into electricity. Dye-sensitized solar cell kits based on sensitization of TiO2 with blackberry juice are available for purchase from the Institute of chemical Education (ICE) in Madison WI. Using these kits, one derives electrical "juice" using blackberry juice. The cell can power low-load devices and the voltage and current produced can be measured.

The CCI in cooperation with CAPSI, will develop inquiry-based, hands-on units as teaching tools, rather than one-off demonstrations. We will develop a unit based on the dye-sensitized solar cell system. It will initially be adopted into a physics unit on electricity. The inquiry learning will revolve around asking questions. For instance: What happens if the dye is removed or if its color is changed? Which wavelengths of light are effective? How does the electricity get through the liquid of the cell? What happens if the salt, the tri-iodide/iodine, or the dye is omitted? What happens if the titania is replaced by silica? Additional modules focusing on electrochemical water splitting will be developed for the chemistry curriculum. The issues of stoichiometry, redox reactions and catalysts will be explored.

Our hope is to eventually disseminate these modules widely, both within CA and nationwide as has happened with prior CAPSI-developed inquiry-based units.