Chemistry students build hydro-flask like devices Using concepts of heat transfer, sophomores constructed different contraptions to keep water warm

Students in Jennifer Conder’s Chemistry class were tasked with creating a device that could keep water warm. Sophomores tested their creations in three trials and recorded data. “In project based learning there is always a guiding question,” Conder said. “Our guiding question is to design a device that can prevent the release of energy, an endothermic reaction, using water.” Photo Credit: Anika Aller
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After having spent a week learning about ways thermal energy can spread, Jennifer Conder’s Chemistry class created devices that mimic hydro flasks to keep water warm. Using a thermometer, students continually took the temperature of their device and a hydro flask for five minutes or more to compare how well they stored the heat of water.

“This goes hand and hand with science and engineering practices,” Conder said. “You’ve done research, you’ve looked at insulators and you are designing a device that can prevent heat loss. You are having to refine your device to solve problems which is part of being an engineer.”

This project was one of the first labs to be done this year, despite the difficulties, using materials students had at home, while in-person learners utilized school supplies.

“This project was different from the rest. Rather than simply creating a presentation on our computers, we constructed our own makeshift thermos and measured its water temperatures,” sophomore Anika Aller said. “I liked that we got to do something hands on this year, despite the fact we’re mainly attending online school.”

Using their creativity to figure out whether their devices would work or not, many students felt the process of testing and refining added a sense of anticipation.

“This project was fun to do,” sophomore Isabel Gomez said. “I was really excited to see if it would work. I love getting out of the house to get the materials and testing my creation. For my device, I got a plastic bottle and cut it in half. Then I got a glass bottle and put it inside the plastic bottle.”

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Students were graded on their ability to refine the device, including multiple samples of data and more as described in the rubric. Many students struggled when it came to ensuring that their water did not lose more than three degrees.

“Ms. Conder asked us to create a device that kept water warm between a three degree difference,” sophomore Malorie Schwartz said. “At the start of the project, it was difficult for me to build a device that kept water within a 3 degree difference. My original design included styrofoam, because during my research, I learned that it was a good insulator. But, I decided to alter my design to use foam instead. After testing, my design proved to be successful. This project helped me understand the purpose of conduction, convection, radiation, and insulation.”

Sophomores took away many useful skills such as time management, flexibility and patience in creating their individual hydro-flasks for this project. All of which are vital abilities that will be needed for the next unit in the class about nuclear half-life.

I thought that the hydro flask project was really neat,” sophomore Daphne Huang said. “I learned through this project that doing labs on your own is a very trial and error kind of situation. So in doing this project, it helped me learn how to be adaptable under time & stress restrictions.”