Saturday, August 2, 2014

Solar Cooking

Here at Etnos, most of the class schedule is semester based.  However, a couple times per semester, there are 1-week module classes that focus on a particular aspect of missionary life, normally something technical.  Recent examples: electrical basics, inductive Bible study, rustic living, literacy teaching.

This past week I was given the opportunity to start off the new semester teaching the Solar Cooking module.  Now, I had absolutely zero experience at cooking with sunlight, but I was eager to put the Tinker side of my brain to work.
Toolbags + a big mug of tea = happy Profe

We started off the week with a short, one hour lecture on the basics of sunlight, the greenhouse effect, and solar ovens in general.  Then I divided the students into three teams and turned them loose to look on the internet for a plan and turn in a materials list by noon.

The next morning, we broke out the tools and got to work.

One team was made up of our three single ladies.  They had the brilliant idea of taking the casing of a discarded AC unit and patching the holes by riveting on sheet metal.
Measuring and cutting patches
Drilling for rivets
 Another team was made up of our Argentinian couple, Matias and Naty.  They built a single-wall wooden box with complex angles to better catch the sunlight. 

Leo and Polette, the Chilean couple found a very complex design that was meant to make the make the most of the sunlight, but made with lots of angles.  Dennis joined their team and they got to work on the structure, first.

 After lining the interior with thin plywood, they insulated it with styrofoam
Dennis cuts styrofoam while Leo and Polette measure and fit it

Meanwhile, the girls had finished their metal interior and asked for help building a wood exterior.  They built it with about 1.5" void on five sides that they filled with wood shavings from the planer, to insulate.  Other than a few difficult/dangerous cuts, I merely advised them as they set to work cutting and screwing things together.
Eliana taking a turn with the circular saw

Mati and Naty were the first to finish and did a trial run.

Howard came over to check it out
Friday was the big day.  Would the ovens actually work?

We started setting up at 8:00am and by 8:45 everyone had food in their cooker, ready to go.

Mati and Naty tried chicken burgers and roasted veggies
Leo, Polette, and Dennis did whole eggs, potatoes, and veggies

Eliana, Kristen, and Eli put in chopped veggies (in water) and eggs in a pot
Addi and I even tried our hand at it with just two mylar windshield covers.  It worked!
Chicken and rice soup packet

Got it up to 143.3F, just a couple degrees lower than the others!
While we waited for our food to cook, we cleaned up the workshop, then spent some time talking about the week.

All of the ovens got up to about the same temperature, about 150F.  I believe that they could have gotten much hotter if we had used real glass mirror reflectors instead of the mylar.  Maybe we'll do some fiddling and try again another time.

But at least they all worked!
The girls' "scrambled" eggs and veggies

Chicken burger, anyone?

Dennis enjoys a baked egg

My little sweeties had chicken and rice soup for their afternoon snack :)

All in all, it was a good week.  We did some "outside the box" thinking, the students had a chance to build something using unfamiliar tools and materials, and we had fun together. 

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