Design Thinking: Design a Better Solar Oven!

September 8, 2015 at 12:30 PM Leave a comment

From the ground up, how do we come up with a new project? How could you? It’s easy to talk about PBL but how does it work for a real project, especially a project that could be useful in the real world?

The idea to design a better solar oven came from a TED-Ed lesson as I was searching for the famous Shopping Cart Design Challenge by IDEO. Ideas for new projects come mainly while driving or biking or in the shower. Different for everyone. And the permission to try something new and not tightly tied to specific content came from our administration.

This project teaches Next Generation Science Standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas -PS4B: Electromagnetic Radiation, PS3B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer, the Engineering DCIs of Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem, Developing Possible Solutions, and Optimizing the Design Solution. Science Practices taught are Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations and Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Students watched the adults at IDEO design a better shopping cart, and they pulled the design process and the norms from the video in preparation for this first project at middle school. I’m hoping that my students will be motivated by overt training for a great job in the real world.

So first step is to have kids share out what they already know about solar ovens, and who has ever built or used one before.

Then they get down to researching the who, where, how, what, why of solar ovens (and solar cookers) in a very free-form way, using Google searches of their own. I circulate, help re-focus and coach. Students keep notes in their notebooks but I don’t prescribe how they are to take notes, just to note interesting stuff that might be useful at the design stage. I nudge them to figure out the physics of how solar ovens work, and who might benefit most from solar ovens.

At the end of the period, we share what we learned. I tie it together around how they work (in very simple terms at this stage – reflection, absorption, changing light energy into heat energy, how glass can trap heat energy and the greenhouse effect.) Some classes raised the idea of using lenses too.

Ready for tomorrow, we will investigate optics to learn about the physics of concentrating light energy.

BTW, if you want more info on getting started with PBL, see the page at the top of this blog.


Entry filed under: Build a Better Solar Oven, Design Challenges, Physics Topics, PROJECTS. Tags: , , , , , .

A Whole year of 7th Grade Science – the best one yet! Build a Better Solar Oven: Investigate Optics!

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