With school budgets shrinking as fast as our polar ice caps, it is not always easy to come up with hands-on solar projects. Thanks to NEED, the National Energy Education Development project, we used their plans to build the fastest, lowest cost, most portable solar oven not on the market. Let me introduce Sydney, a bright, social, and witty 8th grader going to school in Paradise California. Here she recounts a solar project she did two years ago:
Hello my name Sydney Zimmerman I am 13 and an 8th grader at Paradise Intermediate. I am also a teacher’s assistant for Evergreen 6 – an amazing solar school. I was enrolled at Evergreen 6 in the 6th grade where I experienced solar energy for the first time. Mr. Holman fascinated all of us with solar energy. Well I am not a fan of science but solar energy was a subject that I was amazed with and still am. Just like the rest of Evergreen, we were anticipating the arrival of our new solar system. There was so much to learn about. We were having different lessons about solar energy everyday. With little examples everywhere there was so much to take in all at once. Evergreen taught all of us how we can cook using solar energy. One way they taught us how to cook with solar energy was using Solar Hot Dog Cookers made from Pringles cans. It was so much fun and really easy to make these cookers.
From the NEED Project Instructions (Download here- need-solar-hot-dog-cooker.pdf):
- Cut Pringles Can. Cut a 7′ line going horizontal on the side of the can then on each end of that line cut a 3′ line going vertical. Bend the flaps back but do not remove the flaps from can for they are important in cooking your hot dogs.
- Cover opening on side of the can with a transparency film and tape film into place.
- Make two small holes – one on the metal end of the can and another on the lid. Remove lid from can.
- Put hot dog on skewer. Fit the skewer through the hole on the bottom of the can. Then put on the lid fitting the other end of the skewer through the hole on the lid. The hot dog should now be in your cooker.
- Place the Solar Hot Dog Cooker into direct sunlight. Making sure the flaps are reflecting energy onto the hot dog.
- Time how long it takes to cook your hot dog.
- When Hot dog in cooked remove out of Can and enjoy your delicious Solar Cooked meal!
* You Can Experiment with your cookers using other high light sources.
Two useful tips we have learned at Evergreen over the years:
- To make the hole in the metal end of the can, gather up a nail and hammer. Place the plastic lid over the metal end of the can. Use the small plastic dot in the center of the plastic lid to use as a pattern. This will allow you to hammer the nail dead-center in the lid and metal end at the same time.
- Roll the 8.5 X 11 transparency film into a loose roll. Slide it into the can fom the open end. When you let go, it will expand to the size of the can’s interior, not needing tape to hold it inside.
It was a lot of fun to make these cookers and it did not cost a whole bunch. The kids get to experience solar power using something that they created themselves. I think that all teachers should try this project the kids bring in their own Pringles can and all you provide is a skewer and a transparency film, it is that easy! The kids will have fun and be able to eat what they make. It taught us a whole bunch on how solar energy can be used in different things and can be used in our normal daily lives.
These ovens are great for hikes, lunch, and to take home when they are done. Many students report taking them camping and sharing the ovens with family and friends. For those that “do not eat hot dogs,” remember there are turkey dogs and garden dogs out there. “No-Smoke Smores,” Bagel Bites and mini cheese melts can also be made in these ovens. On a hot day, hot dogs can be cooked in around 15-30 minutes. If your hot dog gets finished early, just aim the window away from the sun to keep it warm. For interesting flavor, some report a mild taste of the variety of Pringles that originally came in the can – just be careful not to clean it out before use.
Whatever your budget, Pringles can solar cookers are a great introduction to solar energy. Often students will start to think of other ways they can harness the sun’s free energy…
Spring and summer may seem to be a long way off, start collecting empty cans (with lids) now – you may be ready in time for solar hot dog season!