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'Potato Chip Science': Experiments for kids (and EW staffers)

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When Potato Chip Science arrived in the EW offices it immediately caught my attention because I thought it was food. Alas, it was not. Turns out, it’s just some really cool packaging for a science book! (The title should have tipped me off. But forgive me for wanting an afternoon snack!)

I’ve been saving the “bag of chips” on my desk waiting for a special moment to try out one of the experiments. In the process, I’ve had multiple EW staffers ask me about my weird obsession with said chips, and one editor even advised me to share! Little did they know I was hoarding a bag of science, not sustenance.

Created by Allen Kurzweil and his son, Max, Potato Chip Science uses the popular snack food (and potatoes!) to teach a wide range of sciences. Most of the experiments can be executed with items you can easily find in your home. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to several of these things in my office cubicle. I had to make do. (I wanted to test What Do Car Batteries and Vinegar Chips Have In Common? I’m sure it will shock you to learn I do not have a blender on my desk, one of the necessary items to complete that task.) Anyway, I found something else: Creating my very own CSI (Chip Science Institute) Detective Kit.

I recruited fellow coworker Catherine Fuentes to be my partner in crime (pun intended). And with that, we present to you: Science with Catherine and Breia! (Please note that this activity uses fire, and should only be conducted under adult supervision. Catherine and I asked the fabulous Missy Schwartz to be our adult. She kindly obliged. I must say, she was definitely the right person for the job.)

MATERIALS: metal pie pan, 1 potato chip, matches, spoon, freezer bag or small jar, transparent tape, clear packing tape

MISSION: Learn about forensics by creating our fingerprints!

  1. Our first task was to burn a potato chip in the pie pan.
  2. We crushed the charred remains to make the fingerprint powder.
  3. After the remains cooled, we rubbed the powder on our fingers.
  4. We placed our fingers on clear tape, and voila! We’ve officially been fingerprinted!

Above you can see actual photos from our in-office experiment. (Sadly, our fingerprints did not photograph so well so you can’t see the end result. But trust us! It worked!) I’m not really sure that we learned anything about forensics. But we did learn how to avoid setting off the office smoke alarm, which I’m sure is a valuable lesson. And while the whole adventure was pretty silly, the one thing Catherine and I wholeheartedly agreed on is that this book is perfect for kids. (I would have gone nuts for this as a child! And who am I kidding? I’m in my twenties and I still think it’s pretty cool!) I have three young cousins who would adore these projects. I can already picture their reactions when I tell them this book has instructions on how to make a shrunken potato head.

Would you be willing to try out Potato Chip Science? And are there other office experiments that Catherine and I need to know about?

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