Teen scientist harnesses sun power to help Navajo community

New Mexico teen Raquel Redshirt uses everyday materials and the sun to build solar ovens, fulfilling a Navajo community need and winning an award at the Intel ISEF competition.

Growing up on New Mexico’s Navajo Nation, Raquel Redshirt was well aware of the needs of her community. Many of her impoverished neighbors lacked basics such as electricity, as well as stoves and ovens to cook food.

Though resources in the high desert are limited, Raquel realized one was inexhaustible: the sun. “That’s where I got the idea of building a solar oven,” the teen says.

She researched solar ovens and found that most incorporate mirrors or other expensive materials. Raquel wanted to create a design that anyone could easily afford and replicate, using readily available materials.

She built and tested ovens made of old tires, cardboard, aluminum foil, tape, and insulating materials, including shredded paper and plain old dirt.

Intel: NEW MEXICO from 100 People Foundation on Vimeo.

Responses to " Navajo Teen Harnesses Solar Energy, Wins An Award (VIDEO)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    smart girl who wants to help her community.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Way to go! Sure you will go far in life.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Keep up the good work!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Proud to see our Native American youth

  5. Jennifer says:

    Your devotion to your community is beautiful. You are a wonderful example for others.

  6. Unknown says:

    You are a great young lady :) ♡ you set a wonderful example of how young people today should harness their energy in themselves instead of wasting their time on going nowhere. More power to you my dear :) you are a force that will shine through any darkness! :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good idea. You are thoughtful and inventive. Keep going!

  8. Anonymous says:

    What an inspiration! You have great goals to improve lives with your talents.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You are a beautiful soul and gift from creator, thanks so much for sharing your love and wisdom

  10. Raquel you are magnificent!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    We need to help young people like this one and others to attain the dream they have. All it takes is a little bit of love for humanity and offering them a chance to go to school as she requested. Environmental Engineering is an important part of todays world.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Way to go!!Using what the creator gives us.Helping earth And others.This is what we need more .Many blessings to her!

  13. ed eaton says:

    Good job. I have been designing and building solar ovens for over 35 years now. I would like to come to your school and talk about solar. Please look at m y web site:

  14. Creative mindset in action for sustainable development!

  15. Anonymous says:

    So sad that their way of life has been disrupted and destroyed so much that they have to re-invent things they probably had already figured out to begin with.

  16. WindRider says:

    True care taker of the Earth! ♥

  17. Paznow says:

    ~ A beautiful person inside and out. What a terrific and important project done with heart and commitment to community. <3

  18. Ms Kane McDonald says:

    Hello Rachel, I am a school teacher from Australia, I live in the Kimberley Region (Google it and check it out ). I have taught Australian Aboriginal children and I look forward to showing them this clip of you and what you have achieved. I have had the greatest pleasure of meeting a man named Brian Benally, a Navajo man who shared much information on your people during my visit to Sedona. Everyone must be so proud of you and I trust you feel the same in your achievement to assist your community especially using nature as your energy. this impresses me. I wish you well and thankyou for sharing your design. Kane McDonald

  19. Anonymous says:

    My name is Abe, it made me go under anonymous because I don't know how to work this. But you made a very honorable choice. I first saw the solar oven at the Taos Solar Festival and been interested in them too. It is wonderful to see the youth put effort into building them. Your Nation should be proud as I (New Mexican) am. Best luck, you got my support. Peace

  20. Anonymous says:

    So very proud of you for wanting to help your community, a leader in your hometown, keep up the good work

  21. Anonymous says:

    Raquel, excellent work! You might consider that if you can get your solar oven to 212 degrees, you can boil water. If you can boil water, the steam produced can be piped to a turbine to create electricity. Then your solar oven can be used to create free electricity. Good luck!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely fantastic, congratulations to you Raquel. But let's face it you and your neighbors should not be without the basics, shame on the government for not providing!!!!

  23. Unknown says:

    This young lady is an awesome example for other young people. She and others like her, are our Mother Earth's only hope.

  24. Unknown says:

    the best !! for all the right reasons, to help others !!

  25. Unknown says:

    I feel inspired Raquel. We separate bees wax from the honey over smoky wood fire so we can make candles. Now I will research solar oven. What a great idea! Michelle Biyal (pronounced beeall, my family is Turkish, Greek & Scottish)

  26. roberts says:

    so smart my prayers and hopes that she goes on to a major University a brings back to her people although she seems on the right track already

  27. Anonymous says:

    I love young folks with engineering / scientific aptitude. Excellent stuff. A bit of constructive criticism though is that the pot at the center of the oven would absorb a lot more heat if it's outer walls were black instead of silver (reflective).

  28. Anonymous says:

    I would love those donate something to further your education.... Congrats and thank you for doing your part to better the world.

  29. Andrea W. says:

    Bravo & congratulations Ms. Redshirt. You WILL become an Environmental Engineer (or anything you desire) and bless the world with your genius. Keep up with your education. I know you'll receive (at least one) scholarship.

  30. Unknown says:

    Excellent Raquel. You have made such a contribution to your people and the generations to come.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Nice work young lady! Thinking is a great way to share. I admire your spirit.

  32. Cynthia says:

    Ms. Redshirt - you are an inspiration. You are already on your way on a path that takes most people a lifetime to even find - you are using your mind and your spirit to help yourself, your people and your planet. We need a million more people just like you. Keep thinking, and planning, and trying to improve your world, and it will surely be a better place for all of us. Thank you!

  33. abby j says:

    Rock on, Raquel! You represent the future of our Native American communities, setting a great example to follow! Congratulations on your award and most of all, on your commitment to give back to the community who raised keep your culture a strong and viable force in the world!
    Sending virtual hugs and love for continued encouragement!

  34. You ARE going to change this world. I am so proud of the work you are doing and can't wait to see more from you. You are a wonderful person and I want to see more. Love you.

  35. Unknown says:

    Nice work!

  36. Anonymous says:


  37. 92 Moose says:

    Hope for the future!

  38. You are a great role model for your peers.

  39. Unknown says:

    An amazing young woman. I know that we will hear more about her in the future!

  40. Congratulations!

  41. Go, young woman! As a teacher in No. NM, I am so proud of your work and your commitment to your community and your world.

  42. Unknown says:

    So inspiring! You have contributed to your Navajo nation and also to the world. God bless you!

  43. Anonymous says:

    Great job, keep up your outstanding work.

  44. Bravo!!! Go for it girl, the Nation needs you!

  45. Anonymous says:

    The earth thanks you for taking care of it's true keepers, when the cities are only dust upon the memory of time, the spirit of your peoples will shine with the power of the sun, never give up!

  46. Unknown says:

    You have empowered yourself to make a difference and you will suceed. Your future is bright!

  47. Steve says:

    Great job!

  48. Raquel try junked metal , strip the paint and polish it , it will retain heat better so cook more effectively , old car doors or bonnets , such things have their uses

  49. in theory you could heat up rocks this way too as a heating system for homes

  50. Unknown says:

    Wonderful idea and a generous heart! If sheep are plentiful, then try using lamb's wool for insulation. Even shredded fabric made from wool or other natural materials may work.

  51. You are an amazing young woman and we are all proud of what you are doing, whether we are Native or just people who love the land....keep up the great work that you have started!

  52. Anonymous says:

    So proud of your hard work, creativity, and community focus!

  53. Anonymous says:

    necessity is given the credit as being the mother of invention, but i see that compassion and caring from a young lady about her community neighbors with a need was the drive for her creating a solar oven for her neighbors in a way they could duplicate without great stress or financial burden on them. I am proud to carry navajo blood in my veins too.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Seems like you are really thinking and aware of the needs of people around you. More people like you are what this old world needs. Keep up the good work, and best wishes for what ever you attempt.

  55. Anonymous says:


  56. swimmy44 says:

    Congratulations on developing a creative and useful project which helps the community while making use of materials which might otherwise be thrown away. Way to go and best of luck in the future.

  57. Unknown says:

    What a lovely ,loving human being .Well done and keep loving and giving

  58. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful use of resources on hand...simple...but yet very much needed for our People are nizhoni-ful.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic!!! May your dreams come true! Keep reaching for the Stars! Love it when girls like yourself are recognized!! You are inspiring and an excellent role model!

  60. Dave says:

    Nice work, Thanks from future generations

  61. Unknown says:

    Congratulations, Raquel <3

  62. Unknown says:

    I love your heart and your desire to help others!

  63. Anonymous says:

    Good to see kids embracing science. I wish the video had shown more of her work though, I'd love to know what she came up with.

  64. Hexus says:

    Blogger Hexus said...
    Her story made me smile. A great endeavour to strive for and not unreachable! I am glad your focus is to help makes your efforts inspiring.

  65. Extremely useful to us in South Africa! Thank you!

  66. Kinkiyuyu: Vamos pueblo Valiente

  67. Anonymous says:

    I proposed this to my traditional family once, near Black Mesa, only to say it's bad for our health. Only time can tell now, if any health issuses arises.

  68. Anonymous says:

    Excellent, you have great ideas that will benefit others. Keep up the good work.

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