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WASHINGTON Six Navajo Technical College professional and commercial baking program students combined their culinary talents with their innovative energy sustainable skills to compete the 2013 National Sustainability Design Expo at the National Mall in Washington DC last Friday and Saturday.
Six students entered the People, Prosperity, and the Planet award competition
The students designed a portable solar oven the for the US Environmental Protection Agency's annual P3 award competition.
The EPA hosted the P3, People, Prosperity, and the Planet award competition to enable college students from across the United States to design scientific, technical, and policy solutions to sustainability challenges from across the world and to present their projects.
Forty-five projects in all were on display at the expo where 350 undergraduates showcased their results and ideas for sustainability. According to organizers, more than 5,000 people attended the event that pitted Navajo Technical College against colleges from across the nation such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Purdue University, and Stanford University.
While Navajo Technical College was competing against larger colleges and universities, students were excited for the chance to showcase their work.
“Coming from a small college on the reservation, I'm glad we came to compete against the other schools. It shows that we can perform the same work they're doing,”
stated student Tamara Sam of Naschitti, New Mexico.
“It's fascinating to me that I'm in culinary, and I'm here competing against engineers.”
Navajo Technical College's solar oven was constructed out of plywood, Plexiglas, black construction paper, and a thick insulation foil and was based off of a design developed two years ago by students who utilized a cardboard box. Unlike the cardboard box version, the newest oven was designed to be portable and utilized the skills of Navajo Technical College's industrial engineering and carpentry programs in its construction.
The make shift oven was able to reach temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and was able to cook vegetables and meats, such as chicken, in less than four hours. According to Sam, the simplicity of the design aligned the oven with the expo's theme.
“Some of the other schools spent thousands of dollars for their demonstrations that even had them plug in computers using electricity to show their project,”
explained Sam, who stated that Navajo Technical College's design could be made with less than $10.
“We just relied on our own resources for our solar oven. Even our presentation poster boards were made out of cardboard.”
The winners of the competition won't be awarded for two weeks, but according to Chef Joseph Chapa, the students were immediately rewarded with valuable experience they gained in presenting to thousands of people.
“The entire experience was all worth it because you got to see the students grow. At first they were scared to be here because it was a different environment and they were out of their comfort zone, but you got to see them grow mentally by talking about their subject and craft to strangers in a professional manner,”
“It gives them confidence and makes them feel good about themselves.”
“The biggest tool we can give them is confidence so they can be successful,”
continued Chef Chapa.
Students (l to r) Shelby Yazzie, Tamara Sam, Ryan Manning, Nizhoni Nelson, Anessa Boyd, Gibson Jones, Jr. and NTC Instructor Geraldine Coan seated.
Other students who participated in the expo included Anessa Boyd of Kayenta, Arizona, Gibson Jones Jr. of Tuba City, Arizona, Shelby Yazzie of Twin Lakes, New Mexico, Ryan Manning of Fort Defiance, Arizona, and Nizhoni Nelson of Spencer Valley, New Mexico.
The 2013 National Sustainability Design Expo took place April 19-20 and was judged by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Navajo Technical College's commercial baking program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation and has been making a push towards sustainability in recent years.
In addition to developing community gardens, hoop houses and green houses, the program has been participating in composting efforts that utilizes left over scraps from the college's cafeteria.
posted April 24, 2013 8:20 am edt