Last updated: April 28, 2016
Camily Wedende is the director of Sun Cookers International in Eldoret, Kenya. Sun Cookers International received a grant from Spirit in Action in support of their solar cooker shop. Sun Cookers International builds and sells durable plywood solar box cookers, and stocks various solar cooking supplies such as pots and instruction manuals in his shop. He also conducts solar cooking demonstrations and gives out samples.
In April of 2010, Camily 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.
Solar cooking shop
Sun Cookers International runs a shop in Eldoret that sells the following supplies:
- February 2016: On February 1, 2016, Camily Wedende of Sun Cookers International put on a "train the trainer" program in preparation for the Gulu, Uganda, Rotary Club's distribution of 500 Haines Solar Cookers in Northern Uganda. Geoffrey Okello of the Rotary Club of Gulu reported that the group benefited greatly from Mr. Wedende's solar cooking knowledge and experience and above all learned how to cook African staple foods in a solar cooker. To cook posho (ugali), the flour needs to be mixed with cold water and covered, instead of the normal way of first boiling the water before adding the flour, and no stirring is required. Sweet potatoes and cassava need to be cut into small pieces, eggs have to be placed directly on the solar cooker instead of the normal way of boiling in water. The group made and drank tea before cooking the following food items for lunch: Sweet potatoes, rice, green vegetables, eggs and posho.
- October 2014: Here is a recent photo of the latest group of children that Camily Wedende has been working with, each making their own solar panel cooker. See more photos at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Student-Solar-Cooking-Science-Projects-Eldoret-Kenya/213211212064334. Thanks to Sharon Cousins for helping to post Camily's latest activities.
- July 2014: Camily Wedende interviewed on radio station during visit to Idaho in the US. Listen to the interview.
- February 2012: Sun Cookers International has started the Seeing is Believing Cafe. They are cooking cakes, tea, and other solar-cooked goodies, and selling them in front of their Sun Cookers International business. Find more information on Spirit in Action's blog.
- August 2011: Boyd Cothran (Spirit in Action Board member) and Tanya Cothran (SIA Executive Administrator) recently visited the storefront of Sun Cookers International. Read update and see photo slideshow on Spirit in Action's News section.
- February 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.
- November 2010 Sharon Cousins of Solar Cookers International, recently gave an update on the Eldoret Student Projects in Kenya. She has been involved as an long-distance advisor to the program. Under the local direction of Camily Wedende, twenty grade school students each constructed a model of a new solar panel cooker design, to take home to the camps where they live, where each cooker will benefit an entire family. They also received the necessary pots and cooking bags as well. Each student has been provided with a notebook and pen to keep records of their progress and further experiments, and Camily will keep in touch to check on their progress. Now a lot more students want to be involved with the project to study solar cooking science, and more adults are taking a fresh look at solar cooking's potential.
- April 2010 Camily Wedende, with Sharon Cousins of Solar Cookers International working as long distance advisor from Idaho, USA, began creating and implementing the pilot project for the Eldoret Student Projects. The pilot for this innovative, integrated-curriculum approach to solar cooking science projects for middle and high school age students is very successful to date.
- May 2009: Solar cooking is expanding in Eldoret, Kenya! Sun Cookers International received a grant from Spirit in Action in June 2008 to train community members and refugees how to use and build solar cookers. Camily reports “We are in the world of solar!” He has trained over 50 families in refugee camps and over 100 people total. People receive training on how to build light weight wooden cookers using plywood, glass, aluminum foil, wood shavings and black paint. Typical food cooked in the solar cooker are rice, bananas, eggs, tea, bean and meat. Cookers are also used for pasteurizing water. Camily is very positive about the changes he sees when people learn about solar cooking and is committed to spreading the word in his community. From Camily, "SOLAR COOKERS WORK – SEEING IS BELIEVING."