High School Science Project Measuring Heat

Did you know that all foods we eat have some kind of energy in them. That is why we eat them because our bodies need food to convert to energy and allow our muscles to move. Energy is heat for our bodies.

How can we see what type of energy a piece of food contains even though we are not eating it and digesting it? We will light a piece of food to show it has energy, otherwise it would not burn and then use the energy from it burning to show it can heat water.

Get these materials for the science experiment:

  • A large coffee can
  • A smaller can like a soup can
  • A wooden skewer like used for barbeque careful as the edges will be very sharp so ask a parent for help.
  • You will now want to punch holes around the side edges of the large coffee can. You can use an ice pick with a hammer on a wooden cutting board. Definitely have your parents do this part. The reason for doing this is so that you can release a small bit of oxygen.
  • The small can probably already has the top removed but if not go ahead and take the top off.
  • Punch two holes in the top of the small can on opposite sides. Again have your parents do this hole punching.
  • Put the wooden skewer through the holes so it evenly hangs from both sides.
  • Pour a small amount of water into the small can. (About 2/3 to c cup works well.) Only use room temperature water.
  • Use the thermometer to record the temperature.
  • Now have your parents use a lighter and light the marshmallow on fire.
  • Right away put the coffee can over the marshmallow and put the water filed soup can with wooden skewer on top of that. It should hang from the top of the coffee can over the marshmallow. It looks kind of like a camp fire as you are trying to heat the water in the soup can with the marshmallow.
  • Let the marshmallow burn until it goes out.
  • As soon as the flame goes out put the thermometer into the water and record the temperature.

Now you will do this with the peanut and piece of bread. (Note: the peanut may take a little while to light but do not give up.

Make sure to record your temperature each time and use new room temperature water each time you do this.

What you have discovered is that each type of food we eat will burn because it has energy stored within it and that is what our body uses as fuel. Some foods have more energy inside them than others and that energy can be used to heat water just like it used the energy to keep our bodies warm.

What you are learning is that everything has energy which is measured in BTUs and for every BTU it should be able to raise four ounces of water 1 degree so when you see how many degrees the water temperature went up should show you how many BTUs of energy that piece of food contained.