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Finding Parabolas in Everyday Life

by James Wampler
(Shelbyville, Ky. USA)

This weekend I was at an ASCD conference in Houston, Tx. I was unable to do any solar cooking (as my solar cookers remained in Louisville, and I went to classes from 8am-6pm all weekend)

While I was learning, I tried to think about how the classes could help me develop the best possible unit for the end of this year.

We got a 1-1.5hr break for lunch, and while I was walking down the street, I came across a large set of concrete parabolic dishes. These were used to talk to someone at another parabola, located 30-40 feet away. I took a picture with these as a way to build interest and show students that parabolic dishes aren't JUST used in cooking. I wanted to give my 8th graders and understanding of WHY satellite dishes are shaped the way that they are...and how that applies to focusing sunlight.

In one of the sessions, two teachers explained how they had their students create inventions of their own and then present those inventions to actual inventors and investors at a conference center that they rented out at a local college.

Shelbyville is not home to any colleges, but it got me thinking big in terms of the community involvement for this project. They had professionals skype in to help the students...and I've begun asking people with expertise to join in with my students in a couple months to ask them questions and listen to their ideas for building solar cookers.

Any readers interested? Let me know!

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