More than 80 students and their advisors gathered on Saturday, May 13th at the Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley to face off in the 5th annual “Solar Cook-Off” Competition. Armed with materials such as cardboard, plexiglass, aluminum foil and recycled materials, the fourth- through twelfth-graders from across the High Desert participated in the event. The competition 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 recipes for the cooker and recipe competitions. Each team constructed their own solar ovens which had no size requirement but could not weight more than 15 pounds.
With gusting winds whipping throughout the High Desert just the day before, anxious teams began descending upon the Solar Cook-Off early Saturday morning. Despite their concerns, the weather remained calm, and cooking time began promptly at 9:30, ending 2:30. Most of the teams successfully completed 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, MEEC Executive Board member and General Manager, Liberty Utilities, Omar Martinez, Branch Manager, Alaska USA, and Tony Malone, rounded out the judges. The recipe judges were Johnny Sabogal, Branch Manager II, Alaska USA, James Martin, CEMEX, and Ivan Rosillo, CEMEX. Dave Rib, MEEC Executive Board member and Environmental Manager, Mitsubishi Cement Corporation, and Tony Penna presented awards and certificates to each of the winning teams.
Winning recipes included Asian Meatballs with Rice, Shrimp Pineapple Kabobs, New York Cheesecake, Spinach Enchiladas, Minestone Soup, Brownies, Apple Crumble, and Chicken Enchiladas to name just a few.
“The Solar Oven Competition sponsored by MEEC is one of the best programs for students in the High Desert and surrounding communities to practice their engineering skills, in a lively and fun environment. Students have the opportunity to work collaboratively toward a mutual goal, with time constraints, regulations, and following developed plans (in this case their recipes.) What better way to prepare them for real life experiences and career readiness,” stated team advisors Valerie Kimmel and Julie Manker, Desert Knolls Elementary School, Apple Valley.
First place teams in three age groups took home $250 and $200 cash prizes.
The first-place winners for Design were: Desert Knolls Elementary School (Solar Eagles-Omega), Apple Valley, grades (4-6); Daisy Gibson School (CARN), Palmdale, grades (7-9); and Silverado High School, (S.H.S. Green Rangers), Victorville, grades (10-12). Second place winners were Desert Knolls Elementary (Solar Eagles-Alpha), Apple Valley, grades (4-6); and Twentynine Palms Junior High School (Sizzlin Siracha) Twentynine Palms, grades (7-9). Third place winners included; Daisy Gibson Elementary (Team Gryffindor), Palmdale, grades (4-6); and Twentynine Palms Junior High School (The Nerd Squad), Twentynine Palms, grades (7-9).
Winning first-place in the Recipe category, Daisy Gibson School (Team Gryffindor), Palmdale, grades (4-6); Daisy Gibson School (CARN), Palmdale, grades (7-9); and Silverado High School (S.H.S. Green Rangers), Victorville, grades (10-12). Second place winners were Desert Knolls Elementary School (Solar Eagles -Omega), Apple Valley, grades (4-6); and Twentynine Palms Junior High School (The Puppet Noodles), Twentynine Palms, grades (7-9). Third place winners were George Visual & Peforming Arts (The Apollo Ravens), Adelanto, grades (4-6); and Twentynine Palms Junior High School (Sizzlin Siracha), Twentynine Palms, grades (7-9).
The annual competition is aimed at helping students sharpen their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills while introducing them to zero-emission technologies, such as solar cooking.