Student groups are given a set of materials: cardboard, insulating materials, aluminum foil and Plexiglas, and challenged to build solar ovens. The ovens must collect and store as much of the sun's energy as possible. Students experiment with heat transfer through conduction by how well the oven is insulated and radiation by how well it absorbs solar radiation. They test the effectiveness of their designs qualitatively by baking something and quantitatively by taking periodic temperature measurements and plotting temperature vs. time graphs. To conclude, students think like engineers and analyze the solar oven's strengths and weaknesses compared to conventional ovens.
This activity simulates the extraction of limited, nonrenewable resources from a "mine," so students can experience first-hand how resource extraction becomes more difficult over time. Students gather data and graph their results to determine the peak in resource extraction. They learn about the limitations of nonrenewable resources, and how these resources are currently used.
In this lesson, students will first discuss where energy comes from, including sources such as fossil fuels, nuclear, and such renewable technologies as solar. After this initial exploration, students will investigate the three main types of heat transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation. Students will learn how properties describe the ways different materials behave, for instance whether they are insulators or conductors. Students will complete a crossword puzzle to reinforce their vocabulary in this content area. The class will then focus on the acquisition and storage of energy through the design, construction, and testing of a fully functional solar oven.