Not being a scientist, the actual mechanics of solar electrolysis, hydrogen fuel cells, refrigeration - any of the fundamentals of regenerative energy - are way beyond my ken. So I for one would happily stay at home and play with Thames & Kosmos' experiment kits for model fuel-cell cars and solar houses:
"With the Power House kit you can build a model house complete with solar panels, windmill, greenhouse, and desalination system. You can build and operate an electric train, windmill, solar cooker, solar hot water tank, hygrometer, electric motor, power hoist, sail car, and more! Plant watercress, prepare sauerkraut, and make chewing gum. Learn how plants convert sunlight into energy for your body and your engines.
"The thoughtfully designed series of experiments was developed by physicist Uwe Wandrey. Professor Wandrey creatively integrates physical science and technology lessons with the adventure of building a home and living on a remote island. To survive, you must learn how to harness the power of the sun and the wind as well as tap the energy of other physical forces."
Executive solar gizmos aside, I've never seen very many seriously engaging eco-toys - although educational tinkering-tools aren't really in the same category as Hasbro, and these are designed for a nebulous, preadolescent science-fair world. Now if we could cross-breed them with MindStorms, and reimagine the materials...
Oh, *very* cool, Dawn!
Ambrose Spencer did a traveling energy show with his own version of a model solar house and car at the Tour de Sol, a solar car race, this year. I worked the Hudson River Revival with him.
He also had a fountain and a fan with larger solar panels so that people could turn the fountain on and off with their shadows and tilt the panel to blow a breeze in their faces. The fountain projected a bell made of water and kids love to turn it on and off by jumping in front of and away from the panel to control the flow.
I brought my solar/dynamo radio/flashlight modified so that it also charges AA batteries. We hooked it up to a multimeter and did some basic measurements and talked about how to do a basic electrical demonstration at such venues.
I'm also working on a solar bike light system. I have a good solar powered flashing red LED but I wish I could use it to recharge the batteries in the white LED I use for a headlight or maybe the same manufacturer could make a white LED as well?
It seems to me that we need a new mass market solar product. We really haven't had one since solar calculators and garden walk lights
The solar/dynamo flashlight/radio is one very practical possiblity. So are the bike lights. Or how about solar jewels? They already have little battery lights in rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Why not solar powered or at least with rechargeable batteries with a separate solar charger on some windowsill?
There's also something to be said for recycle solar. I use a ring of 2 liter plastic bottle filled with water to set my seedlings out a month early each spring. Started using all clear ones, then used dard green 2 liter bottles for the Northernmost ones, and then painted the backs of the green ones silver to reflect heat and light back into the center of the circle. The inside of some chip bags is reflective mylar you can use to build concentrating cookers.
Solar toys and tools are around us all the time. We just don't have the imagination or education to see them.
Guess I'll give Thames and Kosmos a call and see if they are interested in some of my product ideas.