South Orangetown Central School District

Seventh grade challenge lab students build solar oven

South Orangetown Middle School Challenge Lab teacher Edith Nowak took her classes outside last week to teach students about solar energy.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Nowak highlighted STEM “SHero” Maria Telkes who pioneered the first solar oven. “Maria Telkes, also known as the ‘Sun Queen,’ was chosen for our Women’s History Month solar oven project because of her groundbreaking contributions to solar energy research. Celebrating women like Telkes not only honors their achievements but also inspires the next generation of scientists and engineers, promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields for a brighter future,” said Nowak.

Students worked in groups to design and build their very own solar ovens using materials including recycled cereal boxes, plastic wrap and reflective materials including aluminum foil and mirrors. The main objective of the project was to create a solar oven that trapped enough heat that when placed in the sun, they could melt marshmallows and chocolate to make s’mores!

To test if their solar ovens worked, Nowak had students measure the diameter and height of their marshmallows and the length and width of their piece of chocolate before putting them in the oven. After their s’mores ingredients were in the oven and direct sunlight for 10 minutes, students looked to see if they were melted and measured each ingredient again to see if there were any changes. Overall, each group was successful in developing an effective solar oven. As with each of her class projects, Nowak asked students to think about ways to improve their invention including adding different materials and modifying the design.