Solar chef

Harness the sun's natural voltage to power a homemade oven. 

You'll Need

  • Shoebox without a top
  • Black construction paper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Foil
  • 2 microwave-safe cups (ceramic or plastic)
  • Water
  • Thermometer
  • Tape
  • Scissors


30 minutes

Learning Stages

The sun is the greatest source of energy for planet Earth. It gives off energy in the form of heat and light. Solar panels are special panels that can soak up solar energy and change it into electricity. With your child, follow the directions below to create a primitive solar oven:

  1. Cut off one of the long sides of the shoebox.
  2. Now cut the two short sides in half at an angle so that you're left with a right triangle at each end.
  3. Line the bottom of the box with the black construction paper.
  4. Line all the remaining sides of the box with the foil.
  5. Make a cover with the plastic wrap and tape it down, leaving one corner not taped so you can lift it open.
  6. Put your solar oven in the sunniest place you can find.
  7. Fill the cups with warm water.
  8. Put one cup inside the solar oven, and put one cup just outside the solar oven.
  9. After 30 minutes, use the thermometer to test the water temperature in each cup.

Discuss with your child what happened to make the cup of water in the solar oven warmer. It is because the black paper absorbs all the sunlight's energy, and the foil directs more of the sunlight to the cup inside the oven than the cup sitting outside. Also, the plastic wrap collects the sun's energy. Outside, without any substances acting as transmitters, the energy is diffused so it is not as strong.

To try cooking with your solar oven, fill another cup with water and put in an instant teabag. If it is really sunny, the oven will warm the tea in about 15 minutes. Instant rice cooks in about 30 minutes.