The S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation Newsletter 1998

Solar Technology and Energy for Vital Economic Needs

S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation,
Ithaca, New York, USA
Tel/Fax (607) 257 7109 

Greetings! We present what has come to be our annual account of the work of S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation. Over the past year and more, our field of interest and work has somewhat broadened. Earlier we concentrated on mostly solar and some other simple energy technologies--renewable, non-fossil-fuel, non-polluting, inexpensive and accessible to poorer people and communities. Recently these same criteria have been applied to human power . Read on!

S.T.E.V.E.N. SOLAR OVENS: abroad and at home

Perhaps our most widely used technology has been the S.T.E.V.E.N. solar box oven/cooker, which started as a square box and has evolved into a rectangular one. Presently we know of its implementation in:

- Haiti: in the community of Pilate in northern Haiti, where Sr. Nina Joseph, aided on a 1996 teaching mission by Steven Vanek, formed a worker cooperative group to produce and sell the ovens. Financial difficulties appear to have retarded the spread of this project, but the idea was well received and the technology is there.

- USA: Solar Cooking in Ithaca, NY, summer of 1998:

Francis Vanek and Catherine Johnson spent the summer in Ithaca and had ample opportunities to use the S.T.E.V.E.N. solar box cooker. The cooker makes excellent tomato sauces and casseroles--the slow cooking time allows the flavors thoroughly to permeate the dish--and also a light, fluffy pot of oatmeal. When preparing oatmeal, use the same proportion of water to oats as on a kitchen stove burner: we suggest 2 water/1 oats.

Along with use at home, in July Catherine and Francis took the cooker to the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, NY, where they cooked several pots of nachos for friends and publicized the work of S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation.

We have come to appreciate the advantage of the cooker's oblong shape in minimizing the effect of parallax error. Parallax error is the term for the fraction of the incoming light beam lost when the sun is not incident on the cooker at an exact right angle. In the case of the old square cooker, this was quite important; however, the rectangular cooker is much more forgiving. While it is desirable to focus it every 30 minutes or so to get the best possible use, the cooker can still work if tended much less frequently.

An anecdote will serve the point. One day this summer Francis put water in the cooker to heat up around 10 a.m., and forgot to go back. At about 1 p.m. he went past the cooker and discovered that the water, which had not been refocussed all this time, was at the boiling point. So he refocussed the collector, put a portion of raw rice in, and went away again. The cooker was again unfocussed for another two hours, and at about 3 p.m. the rice was cooked. This kind of flexibility will clearly make the cooker more useful, especially on days when the user needs to be away for some length of time. -- Francis Vanek

SOLAR OVENS: -- NEW MANUALS: Anyone who has a manual for construction for our older square box cooker is entitled, FREE, to instructions for the newer rectangular model. We are that convinced of its superiority. Just send your request.

-- COOKBOOK? Solar oven users, are you interested in a cookbook with our tried and true recipes? We intend to get this together this winter -- how many copies are produced will depend on your interest. Let us hear!

More news from Bolivia

In a May '98 newsletter, Teresa Vanek and Brent Welch wrote: "Within a couple of weeks of our arrival in Bolivia we were fortunate enough to visit Quesimpuco, a remote mountain village in the Andes. The village is located high on the slope of the Chaupirana valley. The 500 residents of Quesimpuco are Quechua, members of an indigenous group of the South American Andes. The village has no electricity, plumbing or telephone. The road leading into and out of the village is only seasonally passable by 4-wheel drive vehicles. In other words, Quesimpuco is pretty isolated from modern life in Bolivia. devoted to improving the ecological, social, and economic environment of rural communities in the country... through a cooperative effort with villagers in the Bolivian Andes and tropical region. Past projects ...include installing lines and tanks for potable water, setting up hospitals, organizing work teams of health professionals (from the U.S. and Bolivia) to treat rural villagers who are otherwise without access to westernized medical care, and reforestation projects. Education is another important aspect of CENATEC's work: educational projects include training in basic sanitation and use of solar ovens to minimize use of trees and shrubs for fire-wood. CENATEC built an education center in the village which serves to educate villagers of Quesimpuco and the 70 or so "nearby" communities (nearby can mean an all day journey on foot). CENATEC is also interested in promoting traditional medicine.

As one of our projects we are helping to design and build a passive-solar adobe greenhouse at the education center, for these benefits:

* improved nutrition for Quesimpuco villagers by providing a greater variety of vegetables

* extension of the growing season through the cold winter months

*possible economic benefit for Quesimpuco residents through the growing and selling of lucrative greenhouse crops; i.e. strawberries

*area for starting tender tree and plant seedlings for reforestation projects and medicinal plant garden(s)

*growing hot peppers and other plants to be used as natural pesticides in village gardens

*space to experiment with different ways of growing food

*production of food for CENATEC workshop participants

* demonstration of a low-tech, low-cost, passive solar greenhouse design.

... We anticipate that this project will take more than half a year to complete."

We thank the Harris Seed Co. of Rochester, NY for a generous donation of seed for the greenhouse & medicinal garden project. Monetary donations supporting the work are welcome and may be made through S.T.E.V.E.N.Specify"Quesimpuco project."

PROF. VANEK'S NEW"SUPERBIKE" We found it difficult to restrict our inventive activity on "pure" energy to the solar domain: thus we turned to the purest and healthiest form of energy creation and utilization--an all-wheel drive bicycle. The new bicycle technology is comparable to a four-wheel drive automobile in that all of its wheels are provided with power. This is done by substituting for conventional handlebars an assembly based on a bottom-bracket set of rotating cranks with hand pedals and a set of handle-bars extending the axle of the bracket. A gear of that assembly is connected with ordinary bicycle chain to the gear of the front wheel. The Superbike has some 10 significant benefits or advantages.

It is our hope to raise funds for the S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation through individual Superbike production, with net proceeds going to the Foundation. You are welcome to write for the full prospectus of the Superbike. Cooperative or not-for-profit production by others benefitting the workers and users could also be considered by the inventors, Jaroslav and Francis Vanek. -- Jaroslav Vanek


... highlights from Steven Vanek's report on

his work as director with CENATEC (National Center of Technology for Integral Development, a Bolivian NGO):

-- "In the CENATEC training course we built a solar oven with six promotores or community workers, who thoroughly enjoyed it and now use it, time permitting, at the CENATEC office in Quesimpuco. Yesterday I heard that my sister's birthday cake was being baked by solar oven.

-- Also in a CENATEC "community seminar" we built a Lorena stove, modified with a cement top for durability. Lorena stoves are more efficient and also have a chimney which removes smoke from the kitchen, a critical step in womens' health, especially in the cool mountain climate which makes for frequent respiratory ailments that are aggravated by smoke. The stove was built for the Quesimpuco boarding school, and firewood use is down by at least 50%. The cooks say that after they bring soup (50 liters of it!) to a boil it is not necessary to add more wood: the soup simmers just by the heat of the coals, which is not the case with an open fire. ... People seem eager to build the stoves--maybe an important step towards energy sustainability in the area around Quesimpuco!

-- The S.T.E.V.E.N. oven has found an appropriate design, building the wooden box and lining for under $5. with alcohol crates and tins, a natural choice for the highlands of Bolivia where quite a lot of this cheap unhealthy alcohol is consumed....

-- I have done some fairly successful experiments with making solar water heaters out of the long 2-liter soda bottles that are easy to find as garbage in most Bolivian towns (and are valued for many uses in the countryside), plus plastic plumbing parts and black paint. This week I hope to build a water heater with students at the boarding school in Quesimpuco... planting a seed with these young, eager middle schoolers seems a good strategy." Thanks, Steven!



WEBSITE: S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation has a new internet website, courtesy of our friend Bob Parks. We are found at:

VIDEOS AND MANUALS: Along with the S.T.E.V.E.N. prospectus, we offer:

VIDEOS; (1)"The S.T.E.V.E.N. Technologies" 1986-91, 2-hr. overview of technologies, some in earlier versions; (2) "Building a Solar Refrigerator at SIFAT" 1995, short video showing construction of solar collector as well as icemaker technology.

MANUALS: solar collector, collector tracking system, water pumps (3 types), steam engines, box oven/cooker; INFORMATION on refrigerator/icemaker, and on "Superbike."

For videos or manuals ordered, we ask anyone who can to make a donation supporting the work of S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) charity.

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