Cooking with the Sun - Creating a Solar Oven

Contributor
Techtronics Program, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Activity
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Student groups are given cardboard, insulating materials, aluminum foil and Plexiglas, and challenged to build solar ovens. The ovens must collect and store as much of the sun's energy as possible. Students experiment with heat transfer through conduction by how well the oven is insulated and radiation by how well it absorbs solar radiation. They test the effectiveness of their designs qualitatively by baking something and quantitatively by taking periodic temperature measurements and plotting temperature vs. time graphs. To conclude, students think like engineers and analyze the solar oven's strengths and weaknesses compared to conventional ovens.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-PS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.

Clarification Statement: Examples of devices could include an insulated box, a solar cooker, and a Styrofoam cup.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include calculating the total amount of thermal energy transferred.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The performance expectation is fully addressed in this activity.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This practice is fully developed in this activity.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This practice is well developed in the lesson as written.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The authors are fairly open-ended in their suggestions for student testing of their respective designs--consider having the class agree on a series of uniform tests that each of the solar cooker designs will be put through in order to make direct comparisons between designs (e.g, measuring the change in temperature of 250 ml of water for 45 minutes; of air in a closed container; of a hot dog), and have them use these to determine the relative efficiency of each of the designs.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Have student groups diagram energy storage and transfer before during and after cooking in their solar oven. Make them specify the elements that are in their system and illustrate energy flow within the system and across the system boundary (e.g., the sun will probably not be part of their system--therefore solar energy is being transferred across the system boundary.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity is a good fit for MSPS3-3 and could be extended to include all 8 of the science and engineering practices if a teacher were motivated to do so and while there is an obvious connection to crosscutting concept #4, Systems and system models, one could also use on #5, Energy and Matter: Flows, cycles and conservation or #2, Cause and effect. There are also connections made to Common Core State Standards in Math and it would be easy to include some writing and research tasks to make a connection with Common Core English and Language Arts.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity engages students in an authentic engineering design process that is well aligned with disciplinary core ideas that requires them to collaborate to produce a design, execute the design and evaluate the design. There are numerous opportunities for questioning, argumentation and explanation. There are useful troubleshooting tips and references for many resources on solar box cookers.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A number of suggestions are included for performance assessments. There is no paper and pencil test.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is very little technology required to do this activity but it could easily be incorporated if the technology is available in the classroom. Students could do some preliminary research on designs for their cooker, they could look up the various materials they use to find out about the radiative, conductive or insulating properties, and they could use temperature probes to collect and plot change in temperature when they are testing their designs.