STEM Saturdays: Raquel Redshirt, solar ovens, and the Navajo nation
High school engineering hopeful Raquel Redshirt had a hot idea. Growing up in rural New Mexico, Redshirt saw her Navajo community struggle against the limitations of poverty and federal neglect. Without electricity or running water, many of her neighbors were forced to purchase expensive propane gas or cook outdoors over open fires in order to feed their families. At sixteen, Raquel saw one resource that was still free and plentiful in her desert home: sunlight.
Solar ovens are an established technology, but their designs often require expensive materials like mirrored glass and corrugated metals. Inspired by the traditions of resourcefulness and creative problem-solving in her culture, Raquel set out to build a solar oven out of found materials like tires, shredded paper, and foil. Her design took her to the prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair, where she was one of only fifteen hundred students selected to present her work out of over seven million entrants.
Raquel is currently developing her invention while she works on her undergraduate degree in environmental engineering at the University of Oklahoma.