More than 60 students and their advisors gathered on Saturday, May 12h at the Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley to face off in the 6th Annual “Solar Cook-Off” Competition. Armed with materials such as cardboard, plexiglass, aluminum foil and home insulation, the fourth- through twelfth-graders from across the High Desert participated in the event. The one-of-a-kind event was hosted by the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District and the Mojave Environmental Education Consortium, and organizers say it’s the only one of its kind in Southern California. Teams of two-to-five students from schools throughout the High desert designed and built creative solar cookers and developed original delicious recipes for the Cooker and Recipe competitions.
Thirteen teams arrived early to start preparing their recipes and setup their cookers. Cooking time began promptly at 9:30, ending 2:30. Despite the start of a beautiful calm day, windy conditions appeared by 1pm but most of the teams remained in the competition with only a few of the teams having partial dishes disqualified from their menu for failing to reach acceptable cooking temperature as required by San Bernardino County Health & Safety regulations.
During the day-long cooking process, teams were judged on the creativity and design of their solar cookers by a panel of three judges Tony Penna (Libetry Ultilties), Eliezer Carroz (CEMEX) and Roseana Brasington (Mojave Desert AQMD) rounded out the judges. Three separate judges participated on the Recipe panel, including Kaye Walraven (Liberty Utilities), Kristine Scott (SoCal Gas), and Anthony Cortez (CEMEX).
“It was exhilarating to not only see the excitement among the teams competing, but the extreme diversity in solar oven design and strategies while all striving for the same goal,” said Ryan Orr, Community Relations and Education Supervisor for the MDAQMD. “It was truly a great event to be a part of.”
Winning recipes included Peach Cobbler, Chicken Curry, Carne Asada, Krabby Patties, Skewed Shrimp and Rice and Praline Biscuits.
The students spent at least 6 hours at the event, which began at 9:30 a.m. and ended just after 4 p.m. Each team constructed their own solar ovens which had no size requirement but could not weight more than 15 pounds.
“The MDAQMD and MEEC’S Solar Cook-Off is by far one of the best competitions out there for teachers looking to incorporate 21st Century learning skills towards engineering and environmental science. There is no other competition where students get to learn about solar energy through the construction of their own solar oven and design their own award winning recipes to cook it. Thank you MEEC for such a wonderful time and experience for our students,” stated John Kell, Daisy Gibson team advisor.
First place teams in three age groups took home $250 and $200 cash prizes.
The first-place winners for Design were: Desert Knolls Elementary (Soaring Eagles), Apple Valley (4-6); Twentynine Palms Junior High School (Team Trio), Twentynine Palms (7-9); and Apple Valley High School (Eco Clubbers), Apple Valley (10-12). Second place winners included: Lucerne Valley Elementary (The Crazy Cookers), Lucerne Valley (4-6), Daisy Gibson School (L.E.D.’s), Palmdale (7-9), and Apple Valley High School (B.A.C.K.S.). Rounding out the Design category were third place winners: Galileo Academy (All Fired Up), Victorville (4-6), Barstow Junior High School (BJHS Science Rockets), Barstow (7-9) , and Sultana Hihg School (Sultana Solar Bears), Hesperia (10-12).
Winning first-place in the Recipe category: Lucerne Valley Elementary (The Crazy Cookers), Lucerne Valley (4-6); Twentynine Palms Junior High School (Team Trio), Twentynine Palms (7-9), and Apple Valley High School (Eco Clubbers), Apple Valley (10-12). Second Place winners included: Desert Knolls Elementary (Soaring Eagles), Apple Valley (4-6), Daisy Gibson School, (L.E.D’s), Palmdale (7-9) and Sultana High School (Sultana Solar Bears), Hesperia (10-12). Third place winners in the recipe category were: Galileo Academy (All Fired Up), Victorville, (4-6), Daisy Gibson School (Kanny Cookers), Palmdale (7-9), and Apple Valley High School (B.A.C.K.S.), Apple Valley (10-12).
“This was our first year participating in the Solar Oven competition. It definitely will not be the last. My students all navigate the world while dealing with challenges brought on by their individual special needs. Often this puts them at a disadvantage, but this competition allowed them an opportunity to build on each other’s strengths. They were able to successfully work together to design, build, and create a solar oven and recipe that earned them Third Place in both of the categories for their division” said Cristina Duran. “The joy on their face filled me with so much pride as their teacher/advisor. They truly did this all on their own and deserve every bit of celebration! Thank you MEEC for offering this opportunity for ALL students. “