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The Solar Energy Cook-off is a two part competition encompassing design of a functional solar cooker and the creation of a dish cooked in this same cooker. This competition was developed to provide a real world solar thermal challenge for upper elementary, middle and high school students.


Competition Structure

Each team of 2 ‑ 6 students is responsible for designing and building a fully operational solar cooking device and then cooking a dish of their choice with their device.  The challenge is to design an effective solar cooker and to pair the operational capability of the cooker to the type of food cooked. 


Eligibility requirements:

  • Each competing team consists of 2 - 6 students in grades 4 through 12.
  • The competition is divided into three divisions: Yellow Division (grades 4 - 6), Orange Division (grades 7 and 8) and Red Division (grades 9 - 12).  Teams of mixed grade levels will compete in the division of the highest grade level student.
  • Each school may send up to two teams total to the Solar Cook-off.


Construction requirements:

  • Teams may design and build any style of cooker (i.e. box, panel, parabolic, etc).
  • Teams may use any non-toxic materials they wish to build their solar cooking device.
  • Only students are allowed to build their cooker -this is not a parent project.  However, for safety reasons, teams may have assistance with power tools, and may buy pre-cut parts such as glass or plexiglass.  Adults are encouraged to monitor the use of tools.
  • The solar cooker is to be powered exclusively by the sun using solar thermal energy to heat the food.  No additional power sources are permitted for heating food.  For example, photovoltaic powered hotplates are not allowed.
  • The cooker submitted for design judging must be one created for this year’s event, it cannot have been used in a previous Energy Whiz.  However, cookers from previous years may be used in the cooking process--teams may use several cookers to prepare their food, but must submit only one to design judging.
  • All cookers must be large enough to cook at least (3) servings of the food to be judged.
  • No commercially produced cookers will be allowed in the competition.
  • All teams must complete the Cooker Design/Build Form (Firefox users, download to edit); including a photo of the cooker to be judged, at least 10 days prior to the competition. Failure to submit a design form will result in a 10 point deduction from the team's Design Judging score. Forms should be emailed to
  • Teams are expected to discuss their cooker design with a panel of judges, as well as be able to explain how solar cookers work.
  • Extra design points will be given for unusual designs and creative use of materials such as recycled items. 


Cooking requirements:

  • Teams prepare a recipe of their choosing and cook it using their solar cooking device.
  • The food cooked must be paired to the operational capability of the team’s cooker, such as heat attainable, type of cooking (baking, frying), size of cooker, etc.  Since the weather on the day of the competition is unknown and can vary, teams may want to plan for different types of cooking conditions. 
  • Teams may use any kind of non-toxic cooking vessel or container.
  • Non-cooked items may be added as garnish to a dish after it has been in the cooker.  However, this garnish must be specified in the printed recipe. 
  • If recipe ingredients need to be changedthe day of the event from those specified in the printed recipe given to the judges, written notice must be given to the administrative team prior to culinary judging.
  • The team must cook at least four servings of their dish to be judged.
  • The team’s food will be judged on taste, appearance, creativity, complexity of recipe and general appeal.
  • Extra culinary points will be given for recipes that use Florida grown ingredients, Fresh From Florida produce, or items grown in school gardens. Additionally a special award will be given to the team in each division that cooks the best "Fresh From Florida" dish that highlights Florida grown ingredients.
  • The team’s recipe(s) must be printed out and provided for judging.  If the team wishes, additional copies of the recipe(s) may be made available for the general public.
  • Teams must be able to discuss the cooking of their recipe with a panel of judges, as well as be able to explain why they chose this particular recipe. Teams are also expected to interact with and display to the general public.


Competition Day

At the competition, each team will have a ‘booth’ space (at least 12' x 12' with a 6' table), in which to cook their food, discuss their cooker with the judges and present to the general public.  Each team is responsible for removing their cooker and any associated cooking debris from the premises once the competition is complete.

No pets except service animals will be permitted at EnergyWhiz. Individual students may only participate in (2) EnergyWhiz competitions as team members.

The teams are judged in two separate categories - design and culinary.


Judging Criteria - Design:

  • Design Decisions – How well does the team understand solar cooking and solar thermal design?  How well thought out are their design decisions?  Was careful attention paid to parts selection and integration?
  • Construction Technique – How well did the students construct their design?
  • Function – How well does the design function as a cooking apparatus?
  • Creativity – How innovative is the design? How creative is the use of materials? Is the design/project presented in a creative way?
  • Durability – How well does the design stand up to human handling and variable weather conditions such as wind and humidity?


Judging Criteria - Culinary:

  • Suitability – Does the prepared recipe fit the capabilities of the cooker design?  Was the team able to prepare it easily?  Did the team finish cooking in a timely manner?
  • Appeal – How appealing is the prepared dish in appearance and taste?
  • Difficulty – Was the recipe too easy (i.e. a simple heat and serve)?
  • Nutrition – How nutritious is the recipe?  Does the recipe use a variety of ingredients?


Judging Criteria - Fresh From Florida Award:

  • Recipe – Does the prepared recipe highlight Fresh From Florida commercial or homegrown products and/or produce?
  • Availability – How well does the team understand products and/or produce seasonal availability?
  • Benefits – Do the students understand the benefits of using Fresh From Florida products and produce?
  • Appeal – How nutritious is the recipe?  Does the recipe use a variety of ingredients?


Rain Date

The Solar Energy Cook-Off will not be canceled for cloudy weather—teams will be expected to do the best that they can in all weather conditions except rain.  In the event of severe inclement weather, the culinary portion of the competition will be canceled. The decision whether or not to cancel the culinary judging will be made by the administrative team between 11:30 and 12:00 on the day of the event.  The Design Judging and Awards will continue.


Solar Cook-Off Awards

The awards will be as follows:

  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place Design in each division
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place Culinary in each division
  • Fresh From Florida Award in each division
  • WOW! Award in each division