What’s more beautiful than a useful product powered by sunshine? One that is made with readily available and inexpensive materials by a smart 16-year-old with major passion for her community, that’s what. Raquel Redshirt is not the first person to build a solar oven, but when the high school student saw people in her rural Navajo community in New Mexico struggling to get their hands on propane, she decided it was her turn to design one.
Raquel didn’t have access to high-tech materials but, inspired by a culture that teaches resourcefulness, she started building solar ovens out of old tires, foil, tape and cardboard. She used shredded paper or just plain dirt for insulation. And since the sun is a constant in New Mexico, she had plenty of opportunities to test and re-imagine until she had it just right.
While large-scale solar ovens can cook for hundreds, Raquel had a hope that Navajo people in her community would be able to use the technology to feed their families using the resources available to them.
She took her final design to the International Science + Engineering Fair. The ultra-prestigious ISEF competition narrows down 7 million students to just 1,500 who get to show their creations at the fair. Raquel was honored at the event with an award for her ingenious ability to harness the power of the sun with everyday materials. The Navajo teen hopes to perfect her oven and make it available to her community, and we hope to be featuring the final product here for you guys to purchase someday.
Have you ever cooked anything with sunlight? Do you have any tips for Raquel? Let us know in the comments below!