Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
1-2 hours
Key Concepts
Heat, insulation
coolers made from food storage containers with and without insulation

Two plastic food storage containers. Each contains a smaller plastic cup with an ice cube inside. One of the containers is otherwise empty, and one is lined with cotton balls.

Introduction

How does a cooler keep things cold? Which material makes the best insulation? Try this project to find out how long you can keep an ice cube from melting once it's out of the freezer!

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • Two equally sized plastic food storage containers (one will need to have a tight-fitting lid).
  • Ice cubes (at least two of the same size)
  • Two plastic zip-top bags or matching smaller food storage containers/cups that fit inside the larger ones
  • A work surface where both of your containers will have equal exposure to external sources of heat (such as sunlight or a vent). To speed up the activity put your containers in the sun and/or take them outside on a warm day.
  • An insulating material such as cotton balls, bubble wrap, crumpled paper, and so on (more than one is optional)—enough to mostly fill one of your large food containers

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Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
1-2 hours
Key Concepts
Heat, insulation
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