Keep a Cube Challenge
Hosted by: DiscoverE
Visit our Booth: Saturday, March 6, 2021, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Design a container that keeps an ice cube from melting for as long as possible.
Recommended Grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th
Watch challenge instructions below:
Identify the Problem
- The most critical step of any engineering challenge is to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
- The problem you are trying to solve is heat transfer. This is when the heat in the air of the room is transferred to the ice cube, causing it to melt.
- Insulation is any material that reduces heat transfer. Using insulation in the walls of a container allows us to keep hot things hot and cold things cold.
- Start collecting materials for your container. You will need two ice cubes later after you are done building.
- Suggested container materials:
- a cardboard box or shoebox
- masking tape
- aluminum foil
- rubber bands.
- Don’t have all of these items? Look around and see if there are other materials you can use that would make good insulators.
- Don’t have a cardboard box? Can you make one out of an old pizza or cereal box or use a plastic take out container?
- Don’t have aluminum foil? What about using old t-shirts or rags instead?
- Review the challenge and the problem you are trying to solve.
- Look at your materials. Do you think the materials you collected are good insulators? Why or why not?
- Record the materials you are using and whether you think they will make good insulators.
- Start building! If possible, take pictures of the materials as you build. Maybe one at the beginning, one during the process, and one at the end.
- When you are finished building, make a prediction. How much will the ice cube melt in your container?
- Record your prediction.
- To test your design, you will need two ice cubes – one for your container and one for the control.
- When you are ready, place one ice cube in your container. And place the second ice cube in a bowl outside of your container.
- If possible, take a picture of the two ice cubes at the beginning to remind yourself of what they look like.
- Set a timer for 90 minutes (or use a clock and record the start time).
- After 90 minutes, look at both ice cubes and report the results.
- What do the two ice cubes look like after 90 minutes? If possible, take a picture.
- Did the cube in the container melt as much as you predicted?
- Did the cube in the container melt as much as the control?
- Examine your container. Are there any places where air or heat is getting into their container?
- Are there any changes you want to make to your container?
- Other materials you want to try?
Now it’s time to redesign your container and try again!
Share your design with a video or photo on Flipgrid.
Discover Engineering - More Activities
Want more great engineering design challenges? DiscoverE has hundreds of free and fun activities kids, parents, teachers and STEM volunteers can explore.
Our At Home Engineering library has video challenges from engineers and educators as well as student instructions. Instructions for activities like:
- Critical Load: Do you want to build a house of cards and see how much weight it can support before it collapses?
- Pen Factory: Think like an industrial engineer and create your own assembly line! Design the most efficient ways to assemble a collection of pens.
- Windy City Tower: Can you design and build a paper tower that can hold up in the wind?
Want to explore engineering as a career? Learn more here.
We work to ensure people everywhere understand how engineers, technicians, and technologists make the world a better place. We work with organizations around the world like UT Austin to host Girl Day events at their offices and schools. Learn more about us and how to get involved at DiscoverE.org.
DiscoverE: Chats With Change Makers
Watch our high school host, Tiffany--a Future City alum and Austin, TX native--as she interviews engineers and technicans who are working hard to make the world a better place.
In the above video, Tiffany interviews Avery, a civil engineer building bridges that connect rural communities to essential services like hospitals, schools, and stores.
Our next live session is on Thursday, February 25th at 11:00am CT when Tiffany will chat with Joan from Collins Aerospace. She is an electrical engineer, rocket scientist, and astronaut whose job took her out of this world!