Science Fair: Unfiltered sunlight makes best electricity

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 8, 2015

Daniel Llopis of St. Francis Xavier Elementary Schoolshows off his Best in Show trophy at the District Science Fair.

Daniel Llopis of St. Francis Xavier Elementary Schoolshows off his Best in Show trophy at the District Science Fair.

With hundreds of students from across Warren County watching patiently in the Beechwood Elementary gym bleachers, Daniel Llopis lifted the gold “Best in Fair” trophy in front of him and smiled proudly.

The St. Francis Xavier fourth grade student took home the coveted first prize award in this year’s Vicksburg Warren School District science fair for his experiment on solar panels and their electric current.

Llopis covered a solar panel with different colored sheets and hypothesized that the colors would help usher in more sunlight and, in turn, more electricity. It was a theory he was anxious and excited to test as the project began taking shape.

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“It was how color affects electricity. I thought that it would make more electricity,” he said. “We took a solar panel and we took colored sheets and we put them on there. We measured it on a piece of paper and took the times, dates, everything.”

Starting in October, him and his dad began testing this theory outside. For months they worked around the sun’s cloudy days and rainy episodes to complete the project, and the conclusion of the experiment surprised Llopis.

“He thought that the different colored filters would be better than no filter at all, would give you a higher voltage off the solar panel,” his dad Jose said. “He learned that just plain old sunlight will give you a better performance on the solar panel than if you cover it with different colors.”

The hands-on experiment helped Llopis and his father bond while growing his natural love of science.

“My dad came up with the idea,” he said. “My favorite part was doing the solar panels and getting to work with my dad.”

The fact that his dad was in the audience to watch him receive his award in front of more than 180 participants made the moment even more special. Jose Llopis, who is now retired from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, believes events like science fairs are key to harnessing the potential of students who enjoy science while making it fun for those who don’t like it in the same way.

“This is an excellent opportunity for them to learn different subjects,” Llopis said. “It was a lot of hard work. It’s a great experience.”