This is a great project to do in science class or as a project with your kids. You usually see kids outside with lemonade stands and Kool-Aid stands, but you don’t see a hot dog stand very often! Even better, there’s no fire used. All your kids will need is good strong sunlight. If you decide to use this project in science class, there’s no better way to get your kids attention than teaching them about solar energy with food!
Our project will be done with a single box, so it won’t look like the commercial solar cooker above, but the project is very simple and doesn’t cost much to accomplish. Never mind that your kids will wonder why there are hot dog buns, ketchup, and mustard on your science table!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A cardboard box
- Poster board
- Hot dogs
- Tin foil
- A utility or Exacto knife
- A metal coat hanger
- Wire cutters
- Needle nose pliers
- Box tape
Notes: If you are using a template for cutting, make sure that all of your boxes are exactly the same size so the templates will fit for all of the boxes. Make sure that your coat hangers are free of any paint!
Step 1: The longer the box you use, the more heat you’ll be able to collect. That being said, choose a long narrow box and a focal length of between 5 and 10 inches. Design a parabolic curve on the longer sides of the box. You can cut out a curvature template for the boxes that allows the kids to trace. Make sure the curve is well centered and that the corners of your template reach the corners of the side of the box.
Step 2: Cut out the sides of the box on the template line.
Step 3: Cut a piece of poster board that will fit flush with the inside of the box. Again, you may want to have a template ready if you are going to be creating more than one solar cooker.
Step 4: Attach the poster board with box tape starting at the middle on both sides and working your way toward the edges.
Step 5: Apply glue to the top of the poster board and then apply the aluminum foil. Be careful not to crinkle the foil. You want it as smooth and unblemished as possible for it to work properly.
Step 6: Use a couple of pieces of box tape to help anchor the sides. Use the sun to find the focal point of the sun’s rays so that you know exactly where to place your skewer. Putting a dot at each end of the focal point, poke a hole where you’ve placed your dots.
Step 7: Manipulate your coat hanger into a skewer with a hand crank. Thread the coat hanger into one end, skewer your hot dog and then thread the coat hanger through the other end. This setup should allow you to turn the hot dog.
The above is a cooker made out of a single box. Fairly simple to make (and it works) but somewhat limited. So … if you’re interested in a more elaborate design, here are instructions for one that just might burn your hand if you keep it in the focal point too log. Enjoy! … complements of YouTube …
To see just how much cooking you can do with a parabolic style cooker, take a look at these videos. What a remarkable way to capture the sun’s energy! …
And to see the article they came from, see Wikipedia
For other fun projects …
Like this solar cooker? Here is another that might interest you: https://how-things-work-science-projects.com/build-solar-cooker/