"Optimization of Solar Ovens in Tanzania" Project Featured at College of Engineering Design Day 2007
Published: Friday, 27 Apr 2007
Dozens of senior projects were on display at the College of Engineering Design Day on April 27 at the MSU Union. Among them was a team that has developed a new solar oven design for families in Tanzania.
The multi-department team of students worked with Solar Circle, a non-profit organization based in Okemos, to develop prototypes of the solar oven. The students were advised by Craig Somerton and Brian Thompson, faculty members in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Many Tanzanians use wood-burning fires to cook food, a technique that has negative health and environmental impacts.
According to the World Health Organization, exposure to wood-burning stoves can lead to pneumonia, chronic respiratory disease and perhaps even tuberculosis, low birth weight, and cataracts. Additionally, collecting wood and burning fires contributes to environmental degradation and requires significant time and energy by humans.
Health is my biggest concern, said Allison Lewis, a senior mechanical engineering student on the team. The wood-burning fires are making people sick.
The team worked in Tanzania for two weeks in March to develop several prototype ovens and to educate people about harnessing solar power. The ovens can be placed outside on the ground and can reach temperatures of 280 degrees, according to Matthew Winkley, another senior mechanical engineering student on the team.
Cooking with wood-burning fires in ingrained in Tanzanian culture, so the team spent time educating people about the solar ovens. In addition, Solar Circle coordinates demonstrations of the ovens at markets.
Theres a cultural barrier because they dont know about solar cooking, Winkley said. The big issue is getting people used to it.
Design Day annually showcases the College of Engineerings senior capstone design classes. This year, there were 37 teams working with sponsors ranging from NASA to schools to a church pastor. The teams design a new or improved product or process for their sponsor.
- Kristin V. Johnson, ISP news intern