Materials required 

Per group

  • A picture or video of a three-stone fire (see Resources for links)
  • Long-handled lighter or a box of long-handled matches
  • A variety of fuel types, such as dried sticks, wood, charcoal, pieces of kindling, paper or dried grass, in quantities large enough for youth to use as fuel for their stoves

Per pair

  • Heavy-duty aluminum muffin tin pans (not muffin tin liners)
  • Hardware cloth and tin snips for cutting it

Per individual

  • Optional: Digital scale that weighs grams
  • Optional: One or more sample stoves (see Advance Preparation)
  • Hair ties
  • Ash bucket
  • Bucket of water
  • One or more clean, empty soup cans (see Advance Preparation)
  • At least three clean, empty small cans, such as those used for tuna or cat food (see Advance Preparation)
  • A small (e.g., two-cup), lightweight pot with a heat-safe handle OR an additional small empty can
  • Roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Four- to six-foot length of 1.5mm aluminum wire (such as bonsai wire)
  • Optional: Additional lightweight metal materials for building stoves, such as:
  • Can opener (preferably one that leaves smooth rather than sharp edges)
  • Optional: Churchkey can opener
  • Container of water
  • Stopwatch
  • Digital thermometer
  • Potholder
  • Pot-lifter tongs
  • Long-handled tongs
  • Copy of the Stove Design Challenge handout
  • Goggles
  • Pair of rubberized gloves (such as gardening gloves)

Advance Preparation

Select an open, outdoor, fire-safe location to use for testing stoves during this activity, such as a school parking lot.

Gather clean, used tin cans that youth can use to build stoves. You will need two sizes: medium (10- 12 ounce) cans, such as that soup come in, and smaller (3-6 ounce) cans, such as those tuna fish comes in. Be sure the cans you collect have bottoms with edges that can be opened with a can opener; some soup can bottoms have rounded edges that can’t be opened.

Optional: Prior to beginning the activity, build one or more sample stoves that youth can use as inspiration. See Resources for links to information on building a Rocket Stove, an efficient stove that uses insulation as part of the design. Note that the Rocket Stove requires cutting tin cans with tin snips, a procedure that youth won’t use during this activity as it can create dangerously sharp metal edges.

Time required 

1 hour, 30 minutes