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Science Project: Solar Power Hot Dog Cooker

On these fast approaching summer days have you noticed how when you’re out in the sun you’re so much warmer than in the shade? Does it get so hot that you feel like you’re cooking? Well, this is a science project to explore how strong the sun’s rays really are. This homemade solar hot dog cookeris sure to cook up some interesting summer science and some delicious hot dogs.

 

The sun’s rays can be very hot, but to harness all their heat it’s important to “collect” the sun’s rays. The best way to do this is make a shape that reflects the light to a certain point, called the focal point. The best shape to use is the parabola (think the shape of half a football) the best material to reflect the sun’s rays is tinfoil and the best thing to cook on a hot summer day is a hot dog!

Materials:

  • Shoe box
  • Poster board
  • Tape
  • Tinfoil
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Wooden skewer
  • Hot Dog
  • Sunny Day

Procedure

  1. Cut a parabolic curve into the long sides of your shoebox. In other words, draw a shallow curve onto the sides of your shoebox where the lowest point of the curve is 2 inches from the bottom of the box. Cut along those lines.
  2. Take your poster board and cut it so that you can lay it over the top of your box, but still have it be flush with the curve of the side walls. It should look like a skateboard ramp.
  3. Tape the poster board to the walls of your box so that it looks like a skateboard ramp. To avoid bumps it’s best to begin taping at the middle and make your way to the sides.
  4. Cover the poster board you’ve just attached with tin foil. If the foil doesn’t stick right away use some glue to attach it. Again start from the middle and work your way out. You want the foil as smooth as possible.
  5. Tape two strips of poster board to the sides of your box, just where the curve is at it’s lowest. You’ll cut a hole in each strip so that you can rest the skewer with the hot dog. Make sure to measure the placement of the holes so that your hot dog isn’t touching the curve, but it resting just above it. This place in the curve is called the focal point and where the most heat will be directed.
  6. Skewer your hot dog, pop it in your cooker and place your cooker in a sunny summery spot. Make sure to give it a few spins in order to cook it evenly.
  7. Enjoy your hot dog!

Your cooker can get plenty hot enough to cook a hot dog completely but you’ll want to give it enough time to get that hot. If you’re documenting this project for a science fair project think about taking a thermometer and measuring how hot the cooker gets at different times.

If you’re not a hot dog fan think about cooking up a veggie dog, or even marshmallows for a midday s’more!

The sun is an amazing source of energy and this project reveals a fraction of its power.

Have Your Say!

What other types of energy does the sun offer us? Tell us in the comments section below.

16 Comments

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