Springfield, MO

Opinion: ‘Bring your kid to work’ produces organic learning

Bare Bones Business

Posted online

My husband, Hotrod, was heading to Kansas City for a solar training event. I tagged along because the students in this program were kids. How fun!

At engineering firm FSC Inc., CEO Sonia Garapaty hosted a Bring Your Kids to Work Day for her team members. David Kaibel, a manufacturers’ representative at Comfort Sales Agency Inc., had asked Hotrod, whom he knows through their Caleffi/HVAC connection, to participate. Isn’t it nice when industry partners collaborate?

About 15 kids, ages 8 to 15, joined us – on a bright, sunny day – to have some fun with the sun.  

Hotrod set up a full array of solar experiments.

• We got a piece of paper smoking with a magnifying glass.

• Hotrod let loose a little solar car. He and our son, Max, built it when Max was 10 years old. The kids quickly figured out that their shadows would slow down and stop the car.

• You know those reflective insulating shields you can put on your dashboard to reflect the sun and keep your car cool? Hotrod demonstrated a solar oven made from one of those. You need a little Velcro to make a round shape, and you are good to go.
• Hotrod topped an evacuated-tube solar collector, used to heat water by the sun’s power, with a teakettle. During the course of the hour-long event, the water heated to 195 degrees. He explained how a vacuum is a perfect insulator, and why the outer layer of the collector was so cool.

• The crowd favorite: Hotrod’s solar backpack. The panels on the back charge a battery in one of the pockets. The battery is just perfect for charging your phone or tablet. “I severely need one of those,” said one of the participants.

The kids had lots of questions, and they had a few problems already identified. Like, what do you do with the extra hot water? And are batteries capable of storing solar power? It was a sharp crowd.

There were some neat, organic learning moments, too. The dark photovoltaic panel was hot, yet the white table on which it was sitting was cool, so the students got a lesson in physics and chemistry. And the event took place in front of a glass-cube office building. One of the kids asked, “Could that whole building be solar panels?” It sure could.

My favorite part was how some of the kids were making connections between the simple components and how one might configure them. “You could create a GoFundMe or Kickstarter for a new product.” Absolutely!

Hopefully, you’re also inspired to share what you’ve learned with the next generation. If so, let us know what you are up to by dropping an email to or

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at


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