Partner Post – Solavore in Sri Lanka

Reposted with permission – Anne Patterson, CEO Solavore

Last month Solavore Sport designer Dr. Paul Funk time-traveled to Sri Lanka twelve and a half time zones ahead of his lab in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to teach a module on ‘Engineering Design Thinking’ using the solar oven. Dr. Funk taught the class via Skype, addressing more than 50 teachers from rural areas in the country.

The event was one of two workshops held in Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka, conducted by Angelo Fernando, a computer and technology teacher at Salt River Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona. The first of its kind in the country integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (commonly referred to as STEM or STEAM), these workshops were held in collaboration with the National Institute of Education (NIE) which is responsible for curriculum development, and funded by the US Embassy in Sri Lanka.


Fernando, who had previously involved Solavore’s Anne Patterson in his school’s STEM event in 2015, invited Dr. Paul Funk to teach a module on ‘Engineering Design Thinking.’

To teach the class, due to a twelve and a half-hour time difference between the two countries, Dr. Funk had to set up his solar cookers, in his lab at 11:30 pm (which was 11:00 am the next day in Sri Lanka!). “The goal was to inspire science teachers to incorporate science and technology in their lesson plans around conduction, convection, and radiation, while showing them the benefits of solar cooking in a country with abundant sunshine,” said Fernando.
“My goal was to construct the simplest solar device, a panel cooker, as they watched so my audience could see a few basic construction techniques,” commented Dr. Funk.  “ I felt honored to have so large and attentive a group giving attention to the thing I am most passionate about.”

Dr. Funk’s online teaching lab in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Dr. Funk’s online teaching lab in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Also attending were two of Mr, Fernando’s 6th and 7th grade students who served as ‘STEAM Ambassadors’ from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Other Skype presenters at the workshops were a robotics designer from Arizona State University, an Astro-Physicist from the Planetary Science Institute, and a science teacher in Mesa, Arizona.

Solavore has been involved with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community since 2015, and the school has plans to introduce solar ovens in upcoming STEM-based events.

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