How to Make a Kid's Solar Panel

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Children can grasp the basic concept of harnessing the sun's energy to heat things, such as water or food, by building a homemade solar panel. A solar panel is a device that captures sunlight and uses that as a source of energy for heat or even electricity. Building a solar panel oven helps kids learn about basic solar energy principles, such as radiation, reflection, absorption and insulation. They'll even get a delicious snack as a reward for their efforts in building a solar panel oven box.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 empty pizza box
  • Scissors
  • Aluminum foil
  • Black paint and brushes
  • Shredded paper
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Duct tape
  • Simple food (s'mores or hot dogs, for example)
  • Cut a flap in the top of one pizza box. The flap should be cut on three sides, with the fourth side being closest to the lid's "hinge." Cut the flap quite large so that there is only 1 to 2 inches of lid surrounding the flap.

  • Line the entire inside of the pizza box with foil (shiny side up), then spread the shredded paper across the bottom.

  • Seal the shredded paper layer with another foil layer, shiny side up. This creates insulation to trap the heat inside the solar oven.

  • Paint the top layer of foil with black paint. Let it dry completely.

  • Bend the lid flap up. Cover the underside of the flap with foil, shiny side up. Use the duct tape to secure the foil around the back of the flap. Pull the foil as smoothly as possible.

  • Create a tight seal over the opening in the lid with the plastic wrap. Secure it with duct tape on the underside of the lid. Pull the plastic wrap tight so that the covering is smooth and wrinkle-free.

  • Place the food inside the pizza box on the black-painted foil. Close the lid and ensure that there are no gaps for air to escape. If desired, lightly tape the lid seams with duct tape.

  • Angle the lid flap towards the sun, so that the sun's rays are reflected into the plastic-covered opening. The solar oven will reach approximately 200 degrees on a sunny day.

Tips & Warnings

  • A solar oven takes about twice as long to cook something as a regular oven does, so plan accordingly.
  • Avoid using the solar oven when temperatures are below 60 degrees. The oven will not work as well, or not at all.

References

  • Photo Credit pizza for lunch image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com
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