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There are so many science experiments that can be done in the kitchen! Here is one example: Macaroni Mayhem
To design your own experiment, all you need is a testable observation, or idea, or solution to a problem.
Background: This is how pasta is made in my house – boil water, add pasta, walk away from stove, hear sizzling sounds from kitchen, run back to kitchen to find “pasta suds” spilling out of pot all over the stove … Sadly this also happens with rice and potatoes.
So when my neighbor, who loves to cook, wanted to design her own science fair project we tackled this question: What is the best way to prevent the pasta boil over? (Aside from the obvious… don’t leave the kitchen). We looked for solutions on the internet that we could test. We found an article for little known uses of butter, and one was listed as preventing pasta from boiling over. And that is all we needed to design an experiment – an observation we can test!
Question: Does butter prevent pasta boil-over?
Hypothesis: If butter is added to the pot, then the pasta will not boil over.
Procedure: In its simplest form we would have two same-sized metal cooking pots, each with the same amount and type of pasta, and each with the same amount of water (these are all the controlled variables and we need them to be as identical as possible). We put them on the same size burners at the same time and set the heat to the same temperature setting. One pot gets butter (that is the experimental condition) and one pot does not (that is the control). “Butter” is the independent variable because that is what we are manipulating. Our dependent variable is the boil over – which we could just count as yes or no (technically quantitative) but to make it more quantitative we use a stop watch and time when the first “sizzle” happens (i.e. marking the official start of the oh so familiar boil-over). Don’t forget to repeat the whole experiment 3 times (cooling the pots between runs) for the appropriate level of replication and use the same amounts of water, pasta, and butter each time.
Did it work? Yes…sometimes!
So now you can use this basic design to create your own project.
Dependent variable is:
—yes/no for the boil-over happening and
—TIME it takes for the boil over to occur
Independent variable is:
—what you will manipulate, so think about each component of the above design. Pick one that interests you and vary that, for example:
* How much butter is needed? (compare 0.5 tsp, 1 tsp, 1.5 tsp, etc.)
* Does salt content of butter matter? (compare salted to unsalted butter)
* Does margarine work better than butter? (compare margarine to butter)
* Butter is a fat, so is oil – does oil work? (compare oil to butter)
* Which oil works best? (compare olive oil, to vegetable oil, to peanut oil, coconut oil, etc.)
* How much oil is needed (compare different amounts of oil)
* What other strategies do people use to avoid this?
(e.g. salt, wooden spoon, lower temperatures, more water, etc.)
When the pasta is cooked, the trial is over. In all cases, “better” and “best” will be determined by (1) if no boil over happened and/or (2) the longest time before the boil over happens
Once you find the best solution, you can add a follow-up experiment:
* Does my solution work for all pasta types (compare wheat pasta to white pasta to gluten free pasta)
* Does my solution work for different volumes of water and different ratios of water-pasta?
GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN