Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Kick-Off: Build a Solar Oven out of a Pizza Box

By Deborah Pace Rowley

Every year during our science unit on the sun, I have my students build their own solar ovens. This project is so much fun. All you need are the following supplies:

Pizza Box
Heavy Plastic - We used a plastic page protector
Black Construction Paper
Wooden Skewer- A pencil or a ruler would also work to prop open the solar flap.

You probably have most of these things already and next time you get take-out pizza, ask the pizza place for an extra box. I have never had to pay for my pizza boxes. All the local chains have readily donated boxes once they knew it was for the cause of science. (Even when I ask for 25 boxes! Thank you Dominoes.)

1. Trace around your plastic page protector in the middle the lid of your box.

2. Cut an opening in the lid using a heavy pair of scissors or a knife. Cut the opening approximately a 1/2 inch smaller than your tracing line around the page protector. Be sure and cut on only three sides. Leave the back side attached to make your hinge.

3. Now lift up the cardboard that you have cut and crease the back side of the cardboard to make the hinge for the solar flap. Now open the whole pizza lid and tape the page protector in place over the opening. Make sure that there no gaps so that air could escape.

4. Next line the solar flap with tinfoil. Line the bottom side of the flap that faces the rest of the box. Position the tinfoil shiny side out and try to wrinkle the foil as little as possible so it has a nice reflective surface. Katie used a big glue stick to position it in place and then folded the sides around the hinge.

5. Line the inside of the box with foil, shiny side out. Then position the black paper in the center of the foil. Glue it into place.

6. You are done! Now all you need to do is lift the solar flap and stick the skewer or pencil into place to hold it up. Place your solar oven in sunny place and turn it so the suns rays shine onto the foil and reflect down into the box. You can adjust the flap to get the maximum results.

7. You can cook lots of things in a solar oven. We did s'mores today but you can also try chocolate chip cookies with prepared cookie dough, hot dogs or English muffin pizzas. Be creative as you experiment with your solar oven.

8. One tip on doing s'mores: the chocolate melts super quickly. So start with your marshmallow on a graham cracker in the box first. Check back regularly and when the marshmallow is getting soft and gooey, add your squares of chocolate on another graham. The chocolate usually takes 2 minutes. The marshmallow more like 20 minutes. But the result is education and delicious! Yum!

Here are Tyson and Joseph getting a fire ready to cook s'mores the old-fashioned way. Katie was able to eat her s'mores much sooner than they did! Girl Power!

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