Engineering and Computer Science SummerStart Students Build Solar Ovens Using Recycled Materials

 Students work on solar ovens on the quad

August 8, 2017

The challenge is both simple and complicated. Build an oven capable of cooking a chocolate chip cookie – but it has to be solar powered and using everyday recycled items like cardboard boxes, plastic wrap and newspaper. For incoming Engineering and Computer Science freshmen in the SummerStart program, it was a chance to work with classmates and workshop solutions.

“A lot of it was about team building and how they work together, how they work through the design process,” said academic advisor Giovanna Colosi. “Whether they are civil engineers, mechanical engineers, computer scientists, they all have to come in with that skill set of learning how to work together, coming up with a concept, tweaking that concept and coming up with a final product.”

Kyra Thomas ’21 and her team angled aluminum foil to reflect heat into their carboard box and then insulated the oven with recycled paper.

“I think that’s the cool part about it is actually seeing your idea and a project coming to life – whether it works or not, just being out here is really cool right now,” said Thomas.

Every oven had a different design and some teams were still making changes moments before the dough was put in. Arvin Lin’21 and Lluvia Lopez ’21 looked for every opportunity to focus the sun’s rays on their cookie.

“We were actually looking for a mirror and I looked at Arvin’s phone and realized she had a mirrored sort of case on so we decided to take it off and point it towards the cookie to reflect the light as heat,” said Lopez.

Reflected sunlight and insulation are effective but it took more than an hour for the cookie dough to cook in the solar ovens.

“My dream is to work with NASA so it is really fun to do a hands on job see how we can get the cookie to bake better and in the future incorporate that into future projects,” said Lopez.