In April of 2010, Camily Wedende, of Sun Cookers International contacted Sharon Cousins, of Solar Cookers International, asking for advice on engaging young people in solar cooking, because he had read about some of her work with young students in the Solar Cooker Review. The result of this ongoing email exchange between a man from Eldoret, Kenya, and a woman from Viola, Idaho, USA, is the first pilot project for the Eldoret Student Solar Cooking Science Projects.
A group of students, ages 10 - 18, working with Mr. Wedende as advisor, took a scientific approach to solar cooking, studying a number of designs and then helping with construction and comparative testing of three different types of solar cookers that can be made from locally available materials. This project is designed to help the students take a creative approach at the outset, then refine and analyze the results using careful observation and methodical and critical thinking skills.Students compared a CooKit, a bowl/basin type cooker with a low back reflector, and a new panel cooker design they came up with themselves that was partly inspired by Ms. Cousins's EZ-3 Solar Cooker. The new cooker does not yet have a name of its own, but it tested the strongest in their comparative experiments, though all three had the power to cook food or pasteurize water. Students have been enthusiastic participants in this pilot project, and have worked hard to come up with ideas, run experiments, and add to the database of information about solar cooking. Twenty students would very much like to make the new cooker design to take home, where the cookers can help their whole families. Ms. Cousins is trying to raise the modest fund for materials that will make this possible, as a reward for the time the students are putting into solar cooking research and development. Students will each receive a notebook and pen along with their cookers and pots, to keep records of how the cookers perform at home, and Mr. Wedende will do follow-up to encourage their progress.
So far, this pilot project has been a huge success. The students are engaged and excited about the ways solar cooking can improve their families' lives. They are learning skills that include creative problem solving, innovation, research, scientific methodology and observation, analytical thinking, construction techniques, and more. They have all learned three different ways to cook food with sun power. The fact that they have also come up with their own unique design that outperforms others is a bonus.
If this small pilot project continues to be so successful, Mr. Wedende and Ms. Cousins hope that a grant or award can be found that might enable Mr. Wedende to do more of these scientific approach student projects in the Eldoret area. Ms. Cousins thinks that many features in this project could be a model for empowering and productive student projects all over the world, to engage more young people in being a part of this sunny solution.
Recent news and developments
- November 2012: Students with Eldoret Student Science Projects have designed a new solar cooker called the Hexagon Solar Cooker. The bottom portion of the cooker has six angles, with a two foot tall reflector at the rear. It a powerful cooker that cooks food in less than three hours with good sunshine. The students used paper cardboard, aluminum foil and glue. New students have registered to begin making the new solar cooker design.
- September 2012 Plans are being made and put into motion for a second group of students to do a basic project. Due to budget constraints, part of the challenge will be to find cookers to experiment with that could be built at a project cost of no more than ten dollars (US) per cooker.
- February 2011 There will be a ceremony to celebrate the successful pilot project on Feb. 26,2011, in Eldoret, Kenya. Students will receive certificates and other awards, and there will be speeches and other festivities. Contact Camily Wedende for further information. Here is an Album from the pilot project ceremony, which was a big success. Report to follow soon.
- May 2030- Feb. 2011: Student success shows independent spread of solar cooking. The Eldoret Student Projects in Kenya, spearheaded by Camily Wedende and aided by long-distance advisor, Sharon Cousins, who serves on the Solar Cookers International board as well as working as an independent promoter, took an important step in that spread with a student team who not only learned how to cook with sunshine but also learned to take a creative and scientific approach to solar cooking. Students researched existing solar cookers—an assignment made possible by the Solar Cookers World Network site on Wikia—then put their heads together, combined ideas, and came up with new ideas to try. They performed comparative tests on an existing model and two of their prototypes. While all three reached cooking temperatures, one innovation showed the strongest performance at their location. The team has named their new design the Panel Stove Cooker. All twenty students built durable Panel Stove Cookers to take home to the camps where they live, where they have been using them to prepare food and pasteurize water for their families and keeping records of their progress and experiments, amazing the neighbors who stop by to see food cooking in a stove powered by sunshine, a stove that children in their community helped to invent. The entire neighborhood has become more interested in solar cooking due to this project's success. At an upcoming ceremony, students will receive certificates of achievement and other rewards and honors, to celebrate their successful science project. Some of the local media have said they will attend. Camily and the team hope that other schools and clubs can use the example of their pilot project to help more youth become scientists for solar cooking, to aid in the spread of this bright idea whose time has come.
- January 2011 Students have been using their Panel Stove Cookers on a regular basis to cook food and pasteurize water. People in the community are amazed to see food boiling just from the power of sunshine and solar cookers. Mr. Wedende and the students are preparing for a ceremony in late February to celebrate this very successful project.
- October 2010 All the students have made Panel Stove Cookers to take home and have received a cooking pot, cooking bag, and the notebook and pen they will use to record their cooking progress and experiments. Visit an album of pictures from this very successful pilot project
- September 2010 The fund having been transferred, students spent time in September building the Panel Stove Cookers they will each get to take home, so they are adding more construction experience to the skill set they have developed on this project. They are very excited about taking their invention for easier, more economical, and cleaner cooking home to use, and they plan to continue the good habits of record keeping they have been developing on the project in the notebook each student will receive. Mr. Wedende reports, "It is a wonderful pilot project." The team promises more reports and photos.
- August 2010 Students report that they have decided to name their new solar panel cooker model the Panel Stove Cooker. The base of the cooker is 18 inches square, and the vertical back reflector is hinged, so that it can be adjusted to make the most of season or time of day. The direction the cooker faces must be adjusted at least three times in the course of the day. The student team recommends working from behind the cooker when possible, to protect eyes from the worst of the glare. On August 30, the fund transfer to Kenya was set in motion, so very soon the students will each be able to build their own durable solar cooker to take home, where each cooker can improve life for an entire family.
- See Camily Wedende.
- See Sharon Cousins.