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.