A Solar Stove for Haiti

Posted on 03 October 2012

By Amanda Wyatt

While Bridgehampton School has long been committed to the environment, a group of students and teachers are embarking on a new quest to make the future even greener.

The Bridgehampton InvenTeam, made of 12 high school students and two science teachers, is hard at work to develop a solar-powered cooker. The team has been meeting since the end of last school year, when they entered to win a $10,000 grant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop the project.

While the team successfully moved through the first part of the grant application and received “glowing reviews” on their proposal for the project, they were saddened to discover early this week that they would not be recipients of the grant.

Despite this setback, teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz said the InvenTeam is “going to carry on” to try to develop the solar-cooker to the best of their ability.

“I do have students who want to continue, and that was really heartening to hear,” she said. “We’re going to plug ahead and see what we can do.”

While the students will probably not be able to build the cooker without funding, they are still working on the design and the technology behind the stove.

Carmack-Fayyaz added that the students “should all be proud of being part of a very dynamic and successful team.”

She noted that over a quarter of high school students at the Bridgehampton School are involved in the project. Not only did they give up their lunch breaks to work on the invention, said Carmack-Fayyaz, but they also met every week over the summer to brainstorm.

The $10,000 prize money would have allowed for the creation of a large, solar-powered stove, which was designed for communities where people earn less than two dollars a day. The InvenTeam, which has been working closely with Wings over Haiti founder Jonathan Glynn, planned to send their finished product to Haiti.

Originally, the solar-powered stove is designed for an institutional setting, such as a school, hospital or refugee camp. However, Carmack-Fayyaz said the InvenTeam might modify the design so that it has a wider application.

The school has been involved with Wings over Haiti for several years. In 2011, then-senior Aprillina Setyawati traveled to Haiti and used what she learned about agriculture in school to build a vegetable garden on the Wings over Haiti grounds.

Setyawati’s younger brother, Aditya Nugraha, is now a senior and a member of the InvenTeam. In fact, it was Nugraha who discovered a YouTube video that inspired the group’s invention.

The video showed how to heat a pool using a heat sink and a Fresnel lens, which “had nothing to do with cooking,” Glynn said. “We were trying to take an idea and make it better and more socially applicable.”

Nugraha dismantled his computer to find components for the heat sink, and the team began building a contraption that used the Fresnel lens – a low mass lens with a large aperture and short focal length, to trap sunlight and focus it on a heat-sink filled with water.

They hope to use this idea to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly way of heating food.

“I think it’s a really good idea not just to help people in third world countries, but here in the United States,” said senior Bryzeida Perez. “Maybe it could even work for us here, depending on how far we get with it and how well it works.”

As teacher Helen Wolfe noted, experimentation and uncertainty were part of the beauty of the project.

“We don’t know what the results are going to be, and experimentation is a big part of it,” she said. “That’s why it’s good. It’s giving [the students] a different slant on using science and using what [they] know, and doing research, which [they] don’t do a lot of in school.”

The students have also been enjoying the experience.

“I got interested in doing it because it has to do with a lot of imagination,” said senior Josh Hostetter.

“I think the science of it is pretty awesome,” added senior Vanessa Cruz.

Sophomore Hailey Lund agreed.

“I like the idea of helping out people that don’t have as much as we do — making a difference.”

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