Friday, April 10, 2015

Burning Potato Chips for Science

Burning potato chips in the lab in our calorimetry experiment.
There is no better way to teach kids about energy content in food than to burn some in the lab.  Thermochemistry has become one of my new favorite topics to teach because of the many "real world" applications that make the topic relevant and fun.

It is shocking how well the potato chips burn!
I've changed the focus of the unit to a lab based experience with supporting video content that the students watch for homework.   The inquiry cycle works very well in this unit.
This group is working on the Calorimetry POGIL with the mole at the table for help.
The first stop is a calorimetry POGIL, the second phase is measuring J/g for a candle, and the final piece is an inquiry lab to determine how many potato chips must be burned to boil a pot of water.  Each part of the process reinforces the idea of energy transfer.
Measuring the heat content in a candle to learn the calorimetry technique.

The challenge problem for the potato chip experiment is to determine the mass of chips needed to take a cup of water from room temperature to completely boiled away.  This problem forces the kids to consider to energy requirements of the phase change in addition to heating water to the boiling point.  If your curious, it takes about 200 grams of potato chips to boil away a cup of water.

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