Cycle for Science lesson plan


Hello! We're so glad you're interested in bringing the Sol Cycle into your classroom.

The Sol Cycle is a miniature, 3D-printable bicycle that uses solar power to run a small motor that turns the wheels. We cover three broad subjects in this lesson: renewable energy (solar), physics (including speed, distance, Ohm's law), and engineering design (3D modeling and printing). This lesson plan can be tailored to your needs and the interests of your students.

The goal is to involve the students as much as possible -- to have them learn science by doing, rather than hearing about it. If there is only time for one 45-60 minute lesson, the Sol Cycles should be pre-printed and pre-assembled ahead of time. There is also room for more in-depth lessons on basic CAD design using Tinkercad, a free online software developed by Autodesk, and 3D-printing.

The Sol Cycle emerged out of a cross-country bicycle trip taken by Elizabeth Case and Rachel Woods-Robinson in the spring and summer of 2015. As two female scientists, they designed the Sol Cycle to be a hands-on, creative and engaging science demonstration for students aged 4-14. Find out more about the original trip at

This lesson was designed around the middle school Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and covers the following standards:


3D-printable file can be found at:

  1. Bicycle parts

(1) frame

(1) front wheel

(1) back wheel with hub

(2) training wheels

(2) training wheel forks

(1) motor-stop (for keeping the rubber band "chain" on the motor)

(1) handlebars

  1. Nuts and bolts

(1) 1.75" back wheel bolt

(1) 3/4" front wheel bolt

(2) 2 5/8" training wheel bolts

(3) lock nuts

(4-8) washers

(2-4) lock washers

(2) nuts

  1. Miscellaneous

(1) set 5-inch velcro (hook and snag)

(1) thin rubber band, e.g.

(2) thick rubber bands, e.g.

(1) 6V, 1.5W RadioShack solar panel

(2) small alligator clips, e.g.

(1) high efficiency motor, e.g.

Heat shrink wrap, e.g. (optional)

  1. Tools

(1) pair of pliers

(1) pair of mini scissors or Swiss Army knife

(1)Phillips  screwdriver

  1. Other materials that might be useful during the lesson
  1. Starbursts ("photons") or other energetic prop


For full instructions on assembling a Sol Cycle, click here

Learning goals 

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  1. List the three parts of an atom.
  2. Explain how a solar panel works (briefly).
  3. Give one or more examples of renewable energy, and explain why it is important.
  4. Be able to calculate speed from distance and time.
  5. Have a basic overview of prototyping, especially in regards to 3D printing.



This lesson is flexible, and can be run in multiple ways. Here is a sample of how we would run a lesson, with some suggestions for other activities or topics that are interchangeable.


(5-10 min) Introduction

 A few tried and tested questions include:

(10 min) Activity: how a solar panel works

(5-10 min) Sol Cycle Assembly

(15 min) Sol Cycle activity

(5-10 min optional) Renewable Energy

(5-10 min optional) 3D Printing

(5 min) Wrap up