Automated Appliances:
 Robotic Rice Cookers

Wahiawa Middle School - Team #05-0099
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          One of the oldest known means of cooking rice was on the Kamado.  It was created in ancient Japan during the Kofun era which lasted from 300 to 710 A.D.  The Kamado was a fixed platform made of clay/soil, with brick fragments added to give strength against the heat that was provided by burning logs[4].


          The Oki-Kamado was a portable version that was designed for outdoor cooking during the Nara-Heian era (710-794 A.D.).  It had removable parts and was the precursor to the Imperial Kamado.  The Imperial Kamado was an earthenware cooker, which had a food container called the Hagama that nested in a hole directly over the fire[4].


          Eventually, it took a heat efficient oval shape and the food container called the Okama, now was made of metal.  This version, which was used to cook only rice, was known as the Mushi-Kamado[4].


Utilizing electricity to cook rice was first experimented with during the end of the Taisho era (mid 1920s).  These “electric stoves” and “electric rice tubs” were merely stoves and tubs with heating coils attached[2].

In the late 1940’s, the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation made an electric rice cooker that was a simple pot that had a heating coil inside.  It was the closest thing to the rice cookers of today.  However, this model was inconvenient because it required total attention during the duration of cooking and had no automation.  Matsushita Electric launched a similar rice cooker and Sony launched an electronic rice tube, but they also were not successful[2].

                          On December 10, 1956, the Toshiba project team put 700 automatic rice cookers on the market but the reputation of rice cookers had distributors reluctant to sell them.  Instead, Toshiba had the electric power companies which had problems with surplus power, acting as distributors.  Their employees went to homes to demonstrate the rice cookers and instead of sinking like lead, sales soared like balloons!  After its sudden popularity, Toshiba began to produce 200,000 rice cookers a month.  Four years later, rice cookers could be found in half of the homes in Japan[2].

 Toshiba’s success was due to a timer that could set the rice cooker to cook perfectly on its own.  The secret was to detect exactly when the rice began to boil and to turn off the switch exactly 20 minutes later.  Their method was to have two pots: the outer pot was filled with a cup of water and the inner pot cooked the rice. Toshiba used the evaporation of the water from the outer pot as the timer.  When the water in the outer pot evaporated in 20 minutes, it signified that the temperature exceeded 100 degrees Celsius and was detected by a bimetallic thermostat that could turn the switch off.  This design was so successful that it remained unchanged for nine years[2].


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