Mount Saint Mary’s students participate in solar oven cook-off |

Mount Saint Mary’s students participate in solar oven cook-off

Submitted to The Union by Lynn McDaniel
Owen McDaniel and Mariah Crandall answer Principal Edee Wood’s questions about their “Cookie Cloud” solar oven.
Submitted photo |

What better way to learn about the power of the sun than to let students cook some of their favorite foods using its energy?

Mount Saint Mary’s sixth, seventh, and eighth graders spent the past three weeks learning about the sun, then combined what they learned with engineering and design, language arts, and art to compete in their second annual Solar Oven Cook-Off.

“This is applied science,” explained science teacher Chris Thibodeau, who introduced the idea of students building solar ovens then realized that there needed to be a final project that was challenging but, most importantly, fun.

“We’re acting as scientists, (with students) coming up with projects on their own, then finalizing them,” said Thibodeau.

“It isn’t one and done,” he added. “Students have to learn to be diligent and think critically as to what modifications should be made. My goal is to have students immerse themselves in their own learning.”

Some of the entries included “The Flaming Boy’s Chili,” compliments of seventh graders Austin Jackson and Isaac Collins, “Let’s Eat S’More Pie,” by eighth graders Kalli Hill and Dejana Ridens, sixth graders Nora Matthews and Jada Monk’s “Please a Pizza,” (chocolate pizza), and “Mount Chocolate,” a lava cake baked by seventh graders Jack O’Neill and Maddie Walters.

As classes, students agreed on the basic materials that could be used: cardboard, aluminum foil, clear plastic wrap, plexi-glass, tape, glue, and styrofoam. Wood and metal could only be used for supports.

Engineering and design drove the project. Forty-five students, working in groups of two (and one group of three), began with flow charts. They researched ovens, energy, and related information that would help them with their designs. Next was sketching a design idea on graph paper and presenting the idea to their teacher. This process had to be done carefully and thoughtfully because once approved, the students were held accountable to build what they designed.

Once a prototype was built, testing began and graphing of oven temperatures and time was completed. Using the data helped them determine what modifications needed to occur in order to increase temperature.

As judges, students, parents, and guests visited the oven sites set up on the school playground, students were available to explain how they built their ovens and how they worked.  

“The hardest part was getting the panels to stay up and sealing the oven, because the duct tape kept melting,” explained Gino Lorenzo, who worked with Feliz Matthews and finally got their oven up to 250 degrees to bake muffins.

Seventh graders Isaac Fassler and Araya Reed were excited to share the fact that other than duct tape, their oven made — with recycled materials consisting of a pizza box, newspaper and styrofoam — cost them zero dollars to construct.

Modifications were key in the process, as explained by Lola Steele, who said, “Sometimes improvements weren’t the best and we had to try again.”

Father Chris Frazer said what he found “really interesting was the different approaches.”

“The students did a nice job of explaining their ovens and how many times they had to redesign,” said Frazer. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and delicious food to boot.”

Aside from learning about the importance of making modifications, many students agreed with Emmaline Harms, a sixth grader, who said, “Sometimes we had our differences, but when we cooperated, we could get a lot done.”

During an assembly on Monday, the award-winning oven, constructed by seventh graders Jaclyn Voisine and Will Phillips, was recognized as the school community applauded a job well done.

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