Do you like marshmallows cooked over a campfire? What if you don’t have a campfire, though? We’ll solve that problem by building our own food roaster – you can roast hot dogs, marshmallows, anything you want. And it’s battery-free, as this device is powered by the sun.
NOTE: This roaster is powerful enough to start fires! Use with adult supervision and a fire extinguisher handy.
If you’re roasting marshmallows, remember that they are white – the most reflective color you can get. If you coat your marshmallows with something darker (chocolate, perhaps?), your marshmallow will absorb the incoming light instead of reflecting it.
Here’s what you need to get:
- 7×10” page magnifier (Fresnel lens)
- Cardboard box, about a 10” cube
- Aluminum foil
- Hot glue, razor, scissors, tape
- Wooden skewers (BBQ-style)
- Chocolate, marshmallows, & graham crackers
Here’s what you do:
Download Student Worksheet & Exercises
How does it do that? The Fresnel lens is a lot like a magnifying glass. In Unit 9, we learned how convex lenses are thicker in the middle (you can feel it with your fingers). A Fresnel lens (first used in the 1800s to focus the beam in a lighthouse) has lots of ridges you can feel with your fingers. It’s basically a series of magnifying lenses stacked together in rings (like in a tree trunk) to magnify an image.
The best thing about Fresnel lenses is that they are lightweight, so they can be very large (which is why light houses used these designs). Fresnel lenses curve to keep the focus at the same point, no matter close your light source is.
The Fresnel lens in this project is focusing the incoming sunlight much more powerfully than a regular hand held magnifier. But focusing the light is only part of the story with your roaster. The other part is how your food cooks as the light hits it. If your food is light-colored, it’s going to cook slower than darker (or charred) food. Notice how the burnt spots on your food heat up more quickly!
Scientifically Dissecting a Marshmallow
Plants take in energy (from the sun), water, and carbon dioxide (which is carbon and oxygen) and create sugar, giving off the oxygen. In other words: carbon + water + energy = sugar
- In this experiment, we will reverse this equation, by roasting a marshmallow, which is mostly sugar.
- When you roast your marshmallow, first notice the black color. This is the carbon.
- Next notice the heat and light given off. These are two forms of energy.
- Finally, put the roasting marshmallow if a mason jar. Notice that condensation forms on the sides. This is the water.
So, by roasting the marshmallow, we showed: sugar = carbon + water + energy!
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