Pupils were introduced to the world’s first robotic plant at Sheffield University’s regular Christmas lecture.
More than 1,000 youngsters from schools across South Yorkshire were invited to the event at the Octagon Centre, titled Sunshine for Breakfast.
The aim was to give the children an insight into how life is powered by the sun’s energy.
The event was the third of its kind put on by the university’s animal and plant sciences school.
Dr Fiona Hunter, who organised the event, said: “We hope the lecture is rapidly becoming the must-see Christmas event for youngsters aged eight to 11.
Dr Hunter said: “We packed the day with interesting specimens, exciting demonstrations and spectacular video footage – and the event was designed to stimulate the children’s sense of wonder.”
Dr Colin Osborne explained how plants capture the light from the sun and convert it into sugar, which we use to power our bodies.
The lecture was also illustrated by a series of explosive demonstrations, with the thrills including a rocket shooting across the stage, a cycle race, a pyramid made of enough baked beans to feed a 10-year old child for a year and a fireball of burning sugar.
And there was plenty of interest in the robotic plant, which survives on energy captured by an array of solar panels instead of leaves.
After the lecture, pupils were given the chance to explore the facts behind food and energy.
They were also able to see some weird and wonderful plants in intriguing interactive activities devised by biology students at the university.
The university has been carrying out extensive research on the immense potential for solar power providing food and energy for the developing world as part of an initiative called Project Sunshine.