Small Parabolic Cooker for Jefferson Community Center

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Some Examples of Parabolic Cookers


Short abstract describing the project from background to conclusion


Senior Environmental Science Majors Nick Hurn and Kevin Burks are creating a small parabolic mirror cooker to demonstrate the wide uses of alternation energy in Humboldt County. It is part of an Spring 2013 ENGR305 class at Humboldt State University and will be featured on permanent display at Jefferson Community Center in Arcata, California. Parabolic cookers are designed to harness the sun's energy and transfer it directly into the process of cooking raw material. It will serve as a functioning solar cooker for lunches and activities for the students and staff as well as an example of a creative use of alternate energy for the community to enjoy.

Problem statement

The object of this project is to create a parabolic mirror cooker that is a successful example of the ways to capture and use the sun's energy in a sustainable manner. We plan to do this in two steps by first testing the most efficient and effective way of building the cooker, then implementing the most environmentally friendly construction techniques to achieve the creation of it.

Project Evaluation Criteria

The following Criteria will be used to assess the success of this project. After deliberation with the client, we determined the following criteria to be critical for the success of our project. The 1-10 scale signifies the importance of each listed criteria.

Criteria Constraints Weight
Functionality The cooker must reach an optimal temperature (TBD) within a certain time (approx. 2 hours)
Ease of Use and Safety Design must be straightforward and child-friendly
Educational Value The cooker must effectively demonstrate the power of alternative solar heating
Placement and Storage Cooker must fit into a designated storage area (approx 4 ft. square) and fit through specified double doors
Size Must be big enough to effectively cook food in relatively short period of time while still maintaining mobility
Mobility The cooker must be able to be moved by 1-2 people (i.e. wheels, handles, lightweight)
Durability Must function for multiple years around children and withstand UV rays
Budget Must stay within the means of our budget
Inspirational Successfully captures kids imaginations and inspires them to seek further education in appropriate technology

Literature Review

Introduce the literature review briefly and then use heading and subheadings for topics. This should focus on information… NO PLAGIARISM! Make sure to see assignments on Moodle.[1]


How to Construct a Papasan Chair Polished Aluminum Solar Cooker:

  1. Backpack frame bike trailer
    Do something.
  2. Aleiha's parabolic solar cooker
    Do something really complicated that really isn't.
  3. Do something really complicated that really isn't that takes up lots of space and goes all the way across the page...

Maintenance Instructions

Description of maintenance. Probably a small table with tasks and money/time each will take.

Proposed Time Line

These are the tentative dates for the completion of each goal.

Project Started Completion
Design Completion 18 February 26 February
Acquire all necessary materials 18 February 05 March
Construction 05 March 23 March
Testing 23 March 30 March
Demonstration 02 April 02 April
Follow up 02 April 14 May


Here is the proposed sortable budget for the Jefferson Community Center Parabolic Cooker

Quantity Material Source Cost ($) Total ($)
1 Papasan Chair Roommate Donated 0.00
1 5' Length of Chain Ace Hardware 1$/ft 5.00
1 String For Construction Ace Hardware 5.00 5.00
1 Pot for cooking demonstration w/ Lid Thrift Store 5.00 5.00
>10 Various Accessories Assorted >50.00 >50.00
3 Wooden Dowels 1" x 8' Ace Hardware 20.00 60.00
1 Sheet of reflective Aluminum - 5' x 8' Local Scrapyard ~100.00 ~100.00
Total Cost $225.00


Testing results

Describe the testing results. Directly after construction of the cooker, several tests were administered to determine the effectiveness of the parabola.

Initial Test

The first test was simply placing a small bundle of paper in what we assumed was the focal point to see if it would ignite. It smoked and charred for approximately 30 seconds but never ignited. Next, we put 1 pint of water in a pot which was suspended form the bamboo tripod. After approximately 20 mins, some bubble were visible but no boiling was recorded.

Fine Tuning

To better aim the dish at the sun, we employed the "pencil shadow" technique. This entails screwing a pencil into the securing nut at the center of the cooker. With the pencil sticking up perpendicular to the dish, we placed a piece of paper with a hole in the middle around the nut so a shadow from the pencil was easily visible. This allowed us to adjust the cooker until no shadow was visible, meaning it was pointed directly at the sun.

Final Testing Once the panels had been thoroughly cleaned and the dish aimed directly at the sun, we ran the same two test again. A soda can sized bundle of brown paper was placed in the focal point of the cooker and within 20 seconds it was on fire. This means that the temperature at the focal point was at least 451 degrees F. Second, we placed 1 pint of water in the same pot and found that it took 10-15 minutes to boil.

Future Testing Further testing will include an infrared temperature gun to accurately measure the focal point temperature. Different cooking mediums, such as skillets, pans, and dutch ovens, will also be tried to determine which cooks food/water most efficiently.


Discuss the testing results.

Lessons learned

Discuss lessons were learned during this project and what you would do different next time.

Next steps

Discuss any next steps for the project as it goes on into the future.


Introduce team and semester in the following format:

Grading criteria for the remaining sections:

  • Grammar and spelling +10
  • Formatting +10
  • Depth, breadth and accuracy of content +70
  • Project documentation's potential for impact (e.g. reproduction) +10


  1. For example there you will see the recommendation to use Help:Footnotes.