As a math teacher, I tried sparking curiosity in my students by asking them what would happen if you took a 2-dimensional parabola and rotated it 3-dimensionally. Then I encouraged them to not only imagine it, but build the result. This became the Parabolic Cooker Project and allowed students to move from the classroom to a lab environment and bring abstract math concepts to real-world problem solving.
The creativity demonstrated in design and building was impressive. Some teams’ paraboloids showed vertical orientations, looking like upside-down umbrellas to observers. Others used a horizontal approach using strips of reflective material within a shell to capture the sun’s energy, and one team created a parabolic trough that heated the water held within a stretch of pipe. In the end, heating 500 ml of water to the boiling point of 212° Fahrenheit proved too difficult, but teams successfully achieved temperatures ranging from 75° to 154° — after just 10 minutes in the sun!
You can learn more about project this Nueva School page.