Innovation Gateway Challenge, presented by BHP
Design and Test a Solar Oven
Be part of the NASA mission. Compete in a new series of challenges through our Innovation Gateway, a community science initiative. Everyday explorers – just like you – have the opportunity to provide useful solutions to further space exploration and our world.
In this challenge, design a solar oven and use your design to warm a previously cooked or unperishable food item.
With support from
In this challenge, design a solar oven and use your design to warm a previously cooked or unperishable food item. (Do not attempt to cook and eat something that would cause harm if eaten while undercooked!)
Significance of Capturing the Sun’s Energy
Here on Earth, we have relied on the sun for nearly all of our energy. The food we eat for nourishment, much of the electricity we use to power our homes, and even the gas that ends up in most cars; nearly all of that energy can be traced back to the sun, either directly or indirectly. And given the amount of sunlight that gets converted to energy, there is still plenty more to spare. In fact, if you covered an area the size of South Africa in solar panels, we would be able to power the entire world! And what’s more, the sun doesn’t just supply the Earth with its energy.
The Sun’s Energy Fueling Space Exploration
Several space agencies have relied on the sun to power many of the objects we’ve sent into space, from rovers on Mars to full spacecraft powered by solar sails! Even the International Space Station relies on a huge array of solar panels to power the experiments that are telling us so much about our world and universe. And as NASA looks to the future, it is clear that solar energy will continue to play a huge role in propelling spacecraft, powering robotics, and preparing food on other worlds!
Challenge winners can select from two general admission tickets to Space Center Houston or a virtual chat with a NASA astronaut.
Before you begin, review the steps below.
Construct a portable solar oven that can accommodate a standard apple inside. Your prototype should be able to heat food to a minimum temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Engage in the engineering design process to design, build, and test your solar oven.
Level 1: Design and build a solar oven that can accommodate a standard apple and heat food to a minimum temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Level 2: Design and build a solar oven that can accommodate a standard grapefruit and heat food to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (the recommended minimum temperature for meat).
Level 3: Design and build a solar oven that can heat food to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and continues to function as an oven when completely sealed. (This will require a transparent “window” to allow sunlight to enter.)
Helpful hints for all levels:
- Explore the resources provided below to find many answers to your questions about solar ovens, including a NASA Solar Oven activity.
- For the food item you are heating, we recommend a marshmallow.
- Work with family and friends to develop your system.
- Submit your entry by using the submission form on this webpage.
- Be creative!
Challenge winners will be featured on our challenge webpage.
Level 1, 2, & 3
Submit three pictures:
- A picture that confirms the temperature of the food to be heated is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A picture of the food in your solar oven.
- A picture that confirms the temperature of the food has reached above the threshold for your level and a timer showing how long it took to cook.
Entries must be submitted before 5 p.m. CT Nov. 16 using the submission form on this webpage.
Resources & inspiration
Ages 17 & younger
Ages 18 & older