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Middle School Students Explore Thermodynamics in STEM Workshop

Rudy Brandl

Twelve Middle School students investigated an everyday problem during last week’s three-day afterschool STEM workshop – Understanding Thermodynamics. Andrea Barnett, Middle School science teacher and Science Department Chair, guided the students throughout the process.

The students were challenged to solve a problem, how to advise a tea aficionado the best way to keep her tea hot when her morning routine is interrupted. Should she pour the milk in now or when she gets off the phone? Which will keep her tea hotter? Students needed to design an experiment to test their hypothesis. 

Surprised at the results, they took some time to research the laws of heat transfer to understand the phenomenon. Armed with new knowledge, they took to a second challenge to design the best “mug” that would fit in their hand but keep hot water from losing too much heat after 20 minutes. Students enjoyed using materials like pool noodles, straws, cardboard and paper to make excellent insulated mugs. The result was great science fun!