Solar Oven Challenge 2013

The Solar Oven Challenge is a brilliant inquiry learning project as well as a competition. It will engage your students in scientific thinking, as show the importance of science ideas in effective design. They also have to use a sustainable and renewable energy resource- our sun!


Solar Oven Competition Winners

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Clifton Terrace Model School - Kelburn Wellington

  • Patrick Leaupepe yr 6
  • Mackenzie Randall yr 4
  • Kyle Owen yr 2
  • Teacher - Katrina Laurie

Year 3-4

Hauraki School, Takapuna, Auckland

  • Lily
  • Eleanor
  • Matthew
  • Teacher - Louise Hookway

Year 5-6

Glamorgan School, Torbay, Auckland.

  • Julia Ford
  • Lauren Clapp
  • Teacher - Brian Halkyard

Video CD submitted

Year 7-8

Tauranga Intermediate School - Tauranga

  • Connor
  • Christoffersen
  • Cameron
  • Luke
  • Teacher –John Marsh


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Winners in each category received a total prize pack of about $1000 per school

  • Each student recieved a $100 Jaycar voucher
  • Each school received a set of 5 solar kits + set of 5 infrared thermometer guns

Eligibility & Key dates

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  • The competition was open to all Year 1 to Year 8 students in New Zealand in four divisions:

Year 7-8, Year 5-6, Year 3-4 and Year 1-2.

  • The competition closed the week after Primary Science Week (30th May 2013).    


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Students were required to research solar ovens, and then design, build and test their own solar oven.

  1. A small team of not more than three students had to work collaboratively to create their version of a solar oven. Individual entries were also accepted.
  2. The solar oven had to make effective use of the sun’s energy through thoughtful design using every-day and commonly available materials.
  3. The solar oven was not submitted as part of the entry. Instead the students produced a video clip up to five minutes long , able to be uploaded to the internet (and provide us with the link to find it) and which shows the creative team demonstrating, describing and explaining their solar oven.
  4. A folder/portfolio/blog or poster was also required to:
    1. Document the concept development through the use of sketches, plans, photos, sources of inspiration etc.
    2. Describe the key features of the oven.
    3. Explain scientific/technological aspects of why these features were chosen using level-appropriate scientific ideas and language.
    4. Reference all the books, websites, magazines, and communications with any adults/consultants.
  5. The student team had to be the sole researchers, designers and builders of the solar oven.
  6. The task was open-ended and able to be taken as far as the students could in terms of the innovation of the design and use of the solar ovens.
  7. The student team were to be briefed and supervised by a lead teacher in their school who confirmed in writing that the solar oven had been undertaken and completed by the students themselves and that any external adult advice is referred to in the references.
  8. Each school were only able to submit one entry. It was up to the school to choose which entry it submited.    

Relevance of the Competition to the NZ Curriculum

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The competition encouraged a rich and in-depth inquiry learning task to be carried out by each student team.

  • Strong links are able to be made to three major curriculum areas: including relevant objectives for Science, Technology and Mathematics
  • The following information is presented as guides for the supervising teacher/s and show some of the links which could be made to the students project entry at the relevant year level.    

Resources to support the Solar Oven Challenge

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Schoolgen website

For NZ Curriculum-linked resources from the schoolgen website see the selected links below or visit the Teacher Resources Table to see all of the resources.

Year 1-4 (Level 1-2)

How can we slow down heat loss from our classroom?

How do we keep our living room warm?

How tuatara use energy from the sun

Year 5-8 (Level 3-4)

Exploring passive solar energy in our classrooms

Designing an energy efficient house

What’s cooking with solar?

How tuatara use energy from the sun (L3-4 version)

Extension (Level 5-6)

What’s cooking with solar? (L5-6 version)

Researching Solar Ovens

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Once you have explored the Schoolgen resources and activities and have gained some background knowledge of heating with solar energy you can start to focus on how you will go about designing your own unique version of a solar oven.

A great place to learn about all the wonderful types of solar ovens and how they are being used to improve the lives and environments of millions of people can be found here at the Solar Cooker World Network. A good overview of the different solar oven designs can be found here.

Getting Started with the Science

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The competition is less about cooking and more about solar design using science.

It is up to you how you do it but here is a suggested approach to get you on track:

Design Questions:

  • What do we want to cook/heat?
  • What type of solar oven could achieve this?
  • What types of solar ovens are there?

· What is realistic for a solar oven we can build?

  • What kind of materials are we going to use?

Science (Ask scientific questions and then test them):

  • What factors are important in getting the solar oven to a high temperature? (eg. reflection of more sunlight)
  • How can the maximum temperature be increased? (eg. more/better insulation).
  • How much time does it take to reach a certain temperature?
  • What happens to the temperature inside the oven when you add food/water to heat/cook?
  • How hot does it have to be before cooking starts?
  • What is ”cooking”?

How to measure temperature inside the oven:

  • Normal thermometers will get too hot and may break. You can buy a cheap oven thermometer such as found here-
  • You could also use an infrared thermometer such as can be bought at stores like Jaycar. These have the advantage that you can instantly measure the temperature just by pointing it at some spot. You can also see small variations of temperature at different places inside the oven.