#ocpSTEAMonday Solar Oven

Monday, it is and we completed our Solar Oven project finally after the kids toiled for it for many weeks. Umar did the jobs mostly while his younger brothers hovered around him waiting for an invitation to help.

This project marked the closure to the topic of Heat Transfer that we have been doing for several months! Sometimes, I wish I am more discipline with Science for it to have a constant momentum. Unfortunately, for Science, I needed more time to plan and execute. I have to pitch it in a more palatable manner without shoving facts down their throats.

A couple of months ago, I gave him a Case Study to work on. Alhamdulillah, he took it positively and was thrilled to start on it. I had to peel him off eventually because I needed to complete the rest of the pile.

The following day, he started with painting the outer layer black. In radiation, darker colors are good absorbers. We need as much heat as we can for our solar oven.

Then, he painted the base of the solar oven, where food will be cooked, with black paint. However, the sides were painted white so heat captured at the sides by radiation will be reflected back in.

He tried his very best laying the aluminium foil without making it crinkly. The surface of the aluminium foil will act as a reflector. It will reflect the radiation of the sun off the foil and hit the base of the oven. Smooth and shiny surfaces are great reflectors.

Using a piece of cardstock, he measured and cut 4 rectangles. Each reactangle will be painted black on one side and white on the other.

With a glue gun, he stuck the rectangular cards forming a border on the base of the box. It was his first time using a glue gun. It was an experience for his brothers and himself. With this experinece, I hope they will be more confident to use it for future projects. No more cutting strong sticky tapes that will leave undesirable residues on our scissors!! (It is a pain to remove the residues. I cut my finger twice, accidentally, while attempting to remove the residues off the blades of the scissors.)

They pasted cotton balls at the rim of the box to simulate mittens. The air pockets in cotton balls makes it a poor conductor of heat. This will cause lesser heat loss from the sides by conduction. (Now, im wondering if we should have just left it empty because air is a poor conductor of heat as well.)

The cotton balls are painted black to absorb heat instead of leaving it white.

Now, this is where it becomes interesting. Our solar oven looks complete. I whipped out my phone and used the flashlight to act as the sun. Umar tested it out by shining the flashlight towards the aluminium foil. He had to adjust the angle of the cover to ensure that the light is reflected back into the oven. He suggested to tilt the oven in such a way that the front part of the oven is raised.

Using a couple of paper rolls, he adjusted the angle of the solar oven.

While testing out the set up with the bowl, the bowl was tilting and threatening to crash through the ‘flimsy’ cardstock barrier. He used another paper roll to act as a stopper to the bowl.

We are fortunate enough to get most of the sun where the corridor is at, Alhamdulillah. Although it can get pretty hot but the sunlight makes everyday a cheery day. Most importantly, we are able to test out our Solar Oven right outside our home.

We waited. An hour passed. Two hour passed but our egg remained the same.

Our solar oven was not working.

Now, let me be frank with you. While he was not disappointed (Alhamdulillah!), my heart sank. LOL. Despite the many man hours we had put in, the “results” were “unfavourable”. I said “results” and “unfavourable” because it is a typical human reflex when we meet with failures. However, in truth, “results” are subjective. This “failure” turned out to be MANY golden opportunities and beautiful lessons for my children, masyaAllah. I took a deep breath and told them that this is exactly how experiments are. In short, this is LIFE. Most times, the first try will not be what we imagined it to be. But we need to focus on our goal (in this case, a working solar oven). I gave him a very simple tool to move forward – reflect. (I used to hate this word when I was in the fraternity because it became work rather than doing it intentionally. :D) From his reflections, he needs to provide solutions to the problems he identified. Isn’t reflection and improving a part of us being muslims? SubhanaAllah. Coincidentally, in the recent lesson I attended, the teacher said that every “results” that seems good or bad is always to our favour for Allah never abandon us, not even a second. A bad episode will always hurt initially but when we reflect on it, there is always a silver lining in every cloud. She used the Hudaibiyah Treaty as an example. A treaty that deemed to be unfair for the muslims turned out to be a treaty that was favourable to the muslims.

We left it aside as Covid prolonged. Then, the Homeschool Science Fair happened and Umar decided to pick up on the project again. He spent the first day evaluating what happened. Basically – why was there insufficient heat? If you would love to see the modifications made, you can view from the video below. 🙂

Were you able to identifty the improvements made? What were they?

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