Feel the Heat

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In this design challenge activity, learners design and build a solar hot water heater. Their goal is to create a heater that yields the highest temperature change. In the project guide, learners are encouraged to think about this problem within the context of space and space travel. This activity encourages learners to explore the design process and the scientific method.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • aluminum foil
  • large sheet of cardboard (e.g., 11 x 17 inches / 28 x 43 cm)
  • gooseneck lamp with an indoor 100-watt floodlight light bulb (optional if using sunlight)
  • black marker
  • black paper
  • 2 paper cups (medium-sized)
  • 3 feet (0.9 m) clear plastic tubing (Outside diameter: 1/4 inch/6 mm)
  • pitcher of water
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • straws
  • duct tape
  • an indoor-outdoor digital thermometer that can read tenths of a degree


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Heat Transfer
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Design Squad Nation


Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 0810996