Can chewing gum make you smarter? This was an award winning 6th grade science fair project a few years ago in North Carolina. The creative aspect was that the student (read: “my kid”) found a way to define and quantify “smarter” (i.e. number correct on timed math and memory tests) and a way to avoid confounding effects typical of human studies (e.g. used the difference in scores instead of the absolute score). However, this type of project requires many, many participants and they all need to sign the appropriate paper work for approval/consent (–including advising people on the hazards of gum chewing and procedures for proper disposal of chewed gum!). Make sure your school allows this type of project (i.e. one using human subjects).
Here are some ideas that will NOT require the same amount of paperwork because the student will be the only one chewing the gum:
Is sugar-free gum less sticky than regular gum?
Dependent variable: type of gum – sugar free vs. regular
Independent variable: stickiness
Creative Challenge: find a way to quantify “stickiness”; HINT – stickier things stick to surfaces for a longer period of time and stickier things are harder to dislodge from surfaces than less sticky things. Both time and weight (required to dislodge gum) are quantitative dependent variables.
Replication: need 3 wads of gum for each type (sugar-free vs. regular)
Standardization: there should be the same amount of gum, gum should be chewed for the same amount of time, surfaces should be the same
Variations: Once you have designed a way to quantify stickiness – you can ask many questions.
• How does temperature affect stickiness?
• How does age (i.e. how long you have chewed it) affect stickiness?
• Which brand is the stickiest?