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I have been using solar ovens for a number of years. I love to cook food with the Sun's energy, and, more often than not, the food tastes really good. I decided to do this project because I want to use the oven more than just on weekends, when I'm around to tend it. I know that people who do solar cooking sometimes put food in in the morning and come home after work to a cooked meal. I have done that myself. However, it is really hard to have control of the cooking duration and final outcome if you just leave the oven sitting by itself.

This instructable describes how to build a rotating platform that is controlled by an Arduino microcontroller. It follows the Sun until the food has cooked for a
predetermined amount of time and then it will turn the oven away from the Sun. I've only had a few opportunities to use it, because our rainy season just started, but I am
very pleased with the results and I can't wait for more opportunities to use it. After spending so much time on a project, it's very gratifying to know that it will actually be
useful.

Note: These instructions assume that you are using a box cooker. If you are going to use some other type of solar cooker, you will have to make some modifications.
Note: If you live in the tropics, the Sun may be so high that there is no way to completely turn the oven away to stop cooking. In that case, I think the best solution is to
make a mechanism that closes the reflector over the top of the oven.

The system consists of
- a circular platform on a lazy susan bearing
- a geared motor that turns the platform and a circuit that drives the motor
- an optical sensor that the microcontroller uses to determine if the oven is facing the Sun
- a temperature sensor that is stuck into the food being cooked
- the Arduino and a bunch of electronic components
- the Arduino program that I wrote

Step 1: Videos

On the last sunny day of 2010 I made a decent video of the project. There's just a glitch at the end when the end-of-travel switch didn't trip (See step 7), which just shows that I have a bit of work to do to make the device more reliable. Also, for the present, I have abandoned using an LED display, because it is causing the microcontroller to receive faulty temperature readings from the temperature sensor (Update 1/2/11 - I think I've solved that problem - see step 13).


Here's a short video show what the end-of-travel switch does when it works properly (See Step 6 of this instructable).


This video shows the platform working under simulation conditions. A desk lamp was used to simulate the Sun and a cup of hot water was used to simulate the food being heater.



This video shows my oven and platform tracking the Sun for the better part of a day last summer. For this video, I was using a circuit made of discreet components and the platform was not yet programmable.



This video is a benchtop simulation that I ran before running the program on the actual platform. I used a small DC motor to simulate the platform motor, a flashlight to simulate the Sun and a cup of hot water to simulate cooking food. I altered the Arduino program to operate with the lower light level and lower temperature. I also programmed the "cooking time" to be only four minutes.


<p>I had an idea like this but im bad with electronics. and I thought it might be cool if you had say a disk, with various slots or holes... and as the sun came in, solar power converted to electricity, and then created an electro magnet, and another disk would have a metal rode that turned to it. As that one waned the next waxed it would move along. like a solar lazy susan with no real electronics to speak of... </p>
<p>u r genius. this is way over my head awesome!!!</p>
<p>I am trying to design myself a small (around 30 inch cubed) greenhouse that can rotate with the winter sun capturing and storing heat to offset freezing nighttime temperatures. I want to be able to extend my growing season. Your oven is very much how I want my greenhouse to work except I want the design to be geared towards not only using the sun during the day but also using stones or water to hold heat after the sun sets. </p>
<p>An interesting idea. Just off the top of my head these are my thoughts: The small size of 30cm cube is going to make it difficult to keep warm all night because of the high surface-to-volume ratio. Also, the small size of your collecting area (30 x 30 cm) is only going to collect at most 15 watts of heat for, say, 6 hours of daylight. I'm not sure, but I think you're going to have to have a larger collecting area, such as a separate hot water panel, which heats up water that you can then use to keep the box warm at night. I'm happy to help you brainstorm some more about this.</p>
Great idea..I wonder how this could be modified with Parabolic solar cookers. Most parabolics claim to cook within the 45 minute window, so a tracking mechanism could be the icing on the cake. I'm not good at woodworking so I'm probably going to try this with a ready made parabolic.
this is great. Very intelligent with the Arduino board, once i have enough resources ill start buiding:)
How to get Arduino cip outside US.and how much cost.
The Arduino was developed in Italy, so it must be available in many countries. The price is around $25. I would look online for a store that will deliver to your country? What country do you live in?
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Good work Bro!<br>BTW, solar cells could also be mount on the same sun tracking fixture to recharge the main battery for tracking motor power supply, which will makes it stand alone solar cooker. <br>And add a buzzer to alert you when the cooking is done.<br><br>Nice idea....:)<br>Thanks for sharing!<br><br><br>
Thanks for your comments! I like both ideas. I have thought about having a solar panel connected to a huge capacitor instead of a battery, but I don't think I could get one big enough to run the motor for the 7-8 seconds needed to turn the oven out of the Sun.

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Bio: By day I'm a mechanical engineer at a university laboratory. In my free time, I do my own projects.
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