# Around the House

How to Build a Solar Oven

How to Build A Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids

Inspired by an upcoming trip to Lake Mead last year, during which the forecast predicted temperatures around 115 degrees, the kids and I (well mostly me, but they immediately loved the idea) decided to build a solar oven. There are a number of instructions and tutorials online, so we pulled some ideas from each of those.

We started by finding two cardboard boxes that fit inside one another, with a few inches of gap in between. Then the kids glued black construction paper into the inside of the smaller box.

Solar Oven -  TheEngineersKids

Solar Oven  - TheEngineersKids

Next, we folded the flaps of the smaller box out and inserted the smaller box into the larger one, so the small box flaps were within the gap between the boxes.

The kids raided our paper shredder (but you could use crumpled up paper as well) and stuffed the gap with the paper shreds for insulation. We had part of a sheet of acrylic on hand from a previous project (my husband refurbished the Dance Dance Revolution pad that he had built from scratch in college), so I cut a piece of that for a lid.

Your lid should cover the boxes, but not block the flaps from the larger box from standing up, you need those to stand in a few minutes here.

Cutting acrylic is actually a little tricky. The best thing to do is score it with a box cutter (an exacto knife might work too, but be careful not to break the blade), and then bend it along the score line. It should break along the line easily, although it might not be an exactly clean break. Acryllic seems to be tempermental like that. (Oh, and you should wear safety goggle just in case.) Put a bit of duct tape along the edges of the lid, so they are not sharp.

Next, you line the inside of the large box flaps with aluminum foil. Finally, have fun painting the outside.

Painting  Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids Paint a Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids Colorful Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids

When we tried out the solar oven at the lake, I used some duct tape to fan out the flaps of the large box and hold them in that position. Then, I added some more aluminum foil to the gaps between the flaps, so that we could capture more of those rays of sunlight into our oven and raise its temperature.

We had great success at cooking hot dogs. The internal temperature reached over 165 degrees in about 10 or 15 minutes. The kids really wanted to try Easy Mac. Sadly, that attempt ended up with cups of cheesy mush.

Don't Cook Easy Mac in a Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids

Ummm, gross. If I was to do it again, I’d try heating just the water as hot as I could get it, and then add it to the noodles and cheese.

The scientist in me wishes I had tried the oven out when it was a more normal temperature outside. However, my husband threw it out a few months ago while cleaning the garage.

I’ve seen a couple DIY water desalinators floating around pinterest. Now I’m itching to try making one of those. Being so close to the ocean, I actually think it would be nice to know how to make safe drinking water, in case of an emergency.

Has anyone tried those out? Do you have any links to a good DIY desalinator tutorial?

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# 0-3 Years, 4-7 Years, 8-12 Years, Gravity, Outdoors

Best Summer Toy for Small Yards or No Yard

Best Summer Toy for Small Yards or No Yards - TheEngineersKids

Happy First Day of Summer! I am so excited. I know everyone else has been out of school for a month, but we just got done last week! It seems so sad, I know, but usually we don’t go back to school until mid September (this year we go back in August, because they are switching us to a more “normal” schedule all because of all the testing the kids have to do in school…lame). And September is a much better month to be out of school in California.

Why you ask? Because all the touristy types have left, so it’s not crowded, and it’s way hotter than it was in May and June. So we are still partying, and picnicking, and surfing, and swimming, and Disneyland-ing, etc. Then San Diego does the whole month of October when kids get into everything free, so we just keep on partying. Which is why we all live here, even though it is so dang expensive, and our houses and yards are much smaller than in other areas.

We live in a condo. It’s small for seven people. And the backyard is only twenty feet by twenty feet, which leaves little room for slip-n-slides, pools of any sort, elaborate sprinkler systems (awwwe, I want one of these for Eva), or especially this monster that my kids are in awe of.

We beat the heat with our good old garden hose, some buckets, and our favorite hot weather toy. The kids call it a chemistry set.

Best summer toy for no yard - Water play - TheEngineersKids

The weather really warmed up here for a few days this week. The kids played chemistry on their picnic table for hours and hours. The set we used came from our local toy library, which normally I love, but this time it kind of hampered their play a bit. I felt protective of the toys, since they weren’t ours and there was mud and soap involved. The set came with a couple of small pitchers with pour-spouts, a few pipettes (like turkey basters), measuring cups and spoons, and some plastic hoses.

Best summer toy for small apartments - Water play - TheEngineersKids

Since the kids were getting the toy library toys muddy, I made them put them all away after that. We never really got them back out again, and then it was time to return them. It made me feel like a mean mom for not letting them play more when they were having so much fun with it.

Best summer toy when you have no yard - Water play - TheEngineersKids

I decided to get out some of our own tools and look into making our own “chemistry” set a little cooler. Maybe I’ll run to the dollar store to see what they have.

Here’s my shopping list:

  • bucket (ours are all cracked, and really all the play buckets at Target and Wal-Mart are just not very sturdy)
  • turkey baster
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • large and small funnels
  • plastic tubing if they’ve got it
  • a colander (so the kids can make an outdoor shower of course)

Or maybe I’ll save myself the trip and just buy this same one, since it really was pretty all-inclusive.

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