Locally Delicious School Solar Oven

Fig 1: The Solar Swing


The Solar Swing is a project from Humboldt State University's Engineering 215 class. The Solar Swing is a solar oven designed to be implemented in elementary schools across the United States to give children confidence while they learn about solar technology and practice cooking skills.


Locally Delicious is a group of ladies from Humboldt County, California who promote the local foods movement and strive to move away from industrial agriculture. They have helped to fund many local projects such as Food for People, which selects six local farmers to grow specific food for food banks, the Mobile Processing Unit for the Poultry Cooperative, and the Potawot Garden in Arcata.

The group gets their name from their first book, which aims to provide recipes and resources for residents of the North Coast. They are currently working on their second book - Lunchbox Envy. The book is targeted towards parents, older children and their mentors. The goal is to create healthy lunches that kids will want to eat and includes projects that kids can do by themselves, with adults, or at their school.

Locally Delicious contracted our team to design and implement a solar oven in Trinidad School to be used as an example for a do-it-yourself project to be included in Lunchbox Envy.

Project DefinitionEdit

This project is a solar oven that can be replicated at elementary schools across the United States by adults with the possible help of the students. It must meet the client's criteria.

Project CriteriaEdit

The project criteria and constraints were considered by the both Operation S.O.S. and the client. The criteria were then weighted in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the Alternative Solutions.

Table 1: Project Criteria, Descriptions and Weights.

Criteria Description Weight
Oven Safety The oven must be safe for elementary school children and meet the school’s insurance policy. 10
Durability The oven must last for three to five years. 9
Efficiency The oven must thoroughly cook the food prepared by the Junior Chefs within their designated meeting times. 9
Portability The oven must be easily moved around the Trinidad School campus and fit into their storage space. 8
Cost Each team member contributes up to $75 and the client contributes up to $75, so the final cost cannot exceed $375. 7
Ease of Use The oven must be operable by the Junior Chefs, grades four through six. 7
Effectiveness -teaching The oven must meet the Common Core Content Standards for English and Mathematics selected by the California Academic Content Standards Commission (http://www.scoe.net/castandards/). 6


Design HoursEdit

The following chart includes how much time was spent in each section of the design process.

Figure 2: Total Hours Spent = 264

Building and Materials CostsEdit

Table 2 includes the current retail value of the materials used as well as the cost that our team was able to produce it at.

Table 2: Material Costs

Quantity Material Source Our Cost($) Retail Cost ($)
1 Mylar Roll Ace Hardware 18.52 18.52
4 Corrugated Plastic Sheets Ellis Art & Engnrng 21.39 23.76
1 Full-sized baking sheet Angels of Hope Thrift Store 3.75 17.99
1 Tube of silicone adhesive Pierson's 2.32 2.58
1 4'x8'x1.5" Rmax foam sheet Pierson's 27.24 30.27
2 L-shaped aluminum connectors Ace Hardware 3.50 7.08
1 Bottle heat resistant black paint Ace Hardware 7.62 7.62
1 Roll of aluminum foil Ace Hardware 3.26 3.26
1 Oven thermometer Ace Hardware 8.71 8.71
1 Tube of caulk Ace Hardware 7.62 7.62
1 1/4" drill bit Ace Hardware 6.09 6.09
2 Bead corner drywall 8' Ace Hardware 6.08 6.08
2 Aluminum rivets 100 packs Ace Hardware 5.24 5.24
8 Flange bolts Ace Hardware 4.80 4.80
8 Flange nuts Ace Hardware 4.40 4.40
8 Flange lock washers Ace Hardware 1.04 1.04
8 Flange flat washers Ace Hardware 0.96 0.96
2 Floor flange 1/2" galvanized Ace Hardware 13.06 13.06
2 Wire rope clip Ace Hardware 6.52 6.52
1 3/4" wooden dowel Ace Hardware 3.80 3.80
2.6 foot of chain Ace Hardware 7.07 7.07
4 large S-hooks Ace Hardware 6.08 6.08
2 Stainless steel hinges Ace Hardware 23.96 23.96
6 Hinge bolts Ace Hardware 2.94 2.94
6 Hinge nuts Ace Hardware 1.50 1.50
9 foot of stove gasket (large) Ace Hardware 17.55 17.55
4 foot of stove gasket (small) Ace Hardware 4.32 4.32
9 Plastic bolts Ace Hardware 5.40 5.40
1 metal file cabinet Scrap yard 0.00 60.00
1 Range oven bottom Scrap yard 0.00 55.00
2 Drip edge, galvanized Ace Hardware 8.26 8.26
1 Roll of nylon twine Ace Hardware 4.68 4.68
1 Pane of tempered glass 29.5"x23.75" Eureka Glass 35.70 35.70
1 Tube of epoxy glue Ace Hardware 4.68 4.68
1 Roll of metal repair tape Ace Hardware 5.87 5.87
1 Roll of Heavy Duty Reynolds Wrap ERE Department Donated 3.00

Totals $286.95 $425.42

Maintenance CostsEdit

The following two tables describe the annual operation and maintenance costs associated with The Solar Swing. Table 3 shows current retail values of possible replacement materials. Table 4 shows the annual labor involved in maintaining The Solar Swing.

Table 3:Annual Material Costs

Material QTY Annual Materials Cost
25'x48" Mylar Roll One roll 18.52
Silicone 1 tube 2.58
Reynolds Wrap 1 roll 3.00
Total $24.10

Table 4:Annual Labor Costs

Task Time Spent (hrs/year)
Cleaning of Oven 13
Replacing Mylar and Reynolds Wrap 2
Total 15

Final DesignEdit

The Solar Swing is a box-shaped oven that has one wall that is taller than the rest, creating a top face that is slanted downwards. A pane of tempered glass is used as the glazing on the top face of the oven. The window serves as the oven’s door by swinging open from the top. The oven has three fold-out, removable, reflective panels that are held onto the box by aluminum framing and plastic bolts. The outside box is made from sheet metal, and the insulating material in the interior is 1 ½” Rmax foam board. On the interior faces of the oven, placed in-front of the Rmax, is heavy duty Reynolds Wrap wrapped and stapled around corrugated cardboard. Inside the oven is a swing that is suspended from a wooden dowel. It is on this swing that the baking container or surface is set. As the oven is propped at different angles, the swing allows the cooking surface to remain parallel to the ground.

Labeled Oven.JPG

Building and Implementation InstructionsEdit

Complete instructions on how to build and operate The Solar Swing can be found here.


Table 5: Testing Results

Test Run # Date Location Time of Day 0 min (deg F) 15 min (deg F) 30 min (deg F) 60 min (deg F) 90 min (deg F) 120 min (deg F)
1 4/19/11 HSU Campus 2:30 PM below 100 140 190 250 NA NA
2 4/22/11 Trinidad School 3:30 PM below 100 155 210 255 245 245
3 4/24/11 Sunny Brae Noon below 100 140 205 245 275 260


The Solar Swing fits the criteria required for this project. It is safe for elementary school children, it is expected to last for at least five years, it reaches temperatures that can bake a batch of cookies within one hour, it is lite enough to be easily moved by two people, it is within budget, it is easy to use, and it has many educational elements. The temperatures reached and maintained are higher than the team expected would occur. When baking a batch of cookies as a test, the cooking time was approximately 50 minutes, whereas the bake time in a 350 degree oven was 20 minutes. Although The Solar Swing was built and tested in Arcata, California, the varying weather conditions across the United States were considered. The materials used are meant to last in a wide range of temperatures and should not be too difficult to locate in different locales. Also, the potential to change the angle of the glazing on the box and the concept of propping the oven up along its back edge allows for the capture of more direct sunlight at different elevation angles of the sun.

Next StepEdit

With the solar oven complete our next step will be to take it to Trinidad School and have the Junior Chefs use it and give us feed back so we may make any minor alterations they might have.


Average Temperature (2008). “Eureka Average Temperature.” Average Temperature, <http://www.average-temperature.com/temps/CA/Eureka> (Feb. 20, 2011)

Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education. (1996). “National Science Education Standards.” National Academies Press, Washington D.C.

Dormio, Dane, and Steven Jones. "Who Uses or Could Use Solar Cookers." Solar Cookers International. BYU Physics Department, 15 Aug. 2002. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://solarcooking.org/research/Dormio-report.htm>.

Fitzpatrick, Richard. "Spherical Mirrors." Home Page for Richard Fitzpatrick. 14 July 2007. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/316/lectures/node136.html>.

Franco, Judith, Carlos Cadena, and Luis Saravia. "Multiple Use Communal Solar Cookers." Solar Energy 77.2 (2004): 217-23. Science Direct. Web. 20 Feb. 2011.

Funk, P.A, and D.L Larson. "Parametric Model of Solar Cooker Performance." Solar Energy 62.1 (1998): 63-68. Science Direct. Web. 20 Feb. 2011.

Halacy, Beth, D. S. Halacy, and Beth Halacy. Cooking with the Sun. La Fayette, CA: Morning Sun, 1992. Print.

Jones, Steven E., Colter Paulson, Jason Chesley, Jacob Fugal, Derek Hullinger, Jamie Winterton, Jeannette Lawler, Seth Jones, David Jones, Nathan Jones, and Dannelle Jones. "How to Make and Use the Solar Funnel Cooker." Solar Cookers International. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://solarcooking.org/plans/funnel.htm>.

Ligtenberg, Allart. Solar Cookers International. Rep. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://solarcooking.org/Ligt-report1.htm>.

Nahle, Nasif (2009). “Heat Transfer, Conduction, Convection and Radiation.” Biology Cabinet Organization, <http://www.biocab.org/Heat_Transfer.html> (Feb. 19, 2011)

Peters, Joseph M. and David L. Stout. (2006). “Methods for Teaching Elementary School Science.” Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Pidwirny, M. (2006). "Earth-Sun Relationships and Insolation". Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition. <http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/6i.html> (Feb. 20, 2011)

Schwarzer, Klemens, and Maria Eugênia Vieira Da Silva. "Characterisation and Design Methods of Solar Cookers." Solar Energy 82.2 (2008): 175-63. Science Direct. Web. 20 Feb. 2011.

Solar Circle. (2010). “How Solar Ovens Work.” More About Solar Ovens, <http://solar-circle.org/index.php?page=how-solar-ovens-work> (Feb. 20, 2011).

2011 TeamEdit