Build a better coffee mug.
This project may be done by teams of 1-3 individuals. The goal is to design and build an insulated container for hot liquids which beats a standard styrofoam cup. You may use any materials you wish, as long as you do not simply employ a commercial coffee mug; you must add a significant contribution to any pre-existing object you use.
The container you build must hold at least 6 ounces and at most 1 quart of liquid. It must be small and light enough for an ordinary person to hold and lift easily. You may not insert heating devices into the container; it should keep liquid warm in a passive manner.
Describe carefully the container you design and build. Explain in detail your choices for the materials and construction. Why should your mug be better than ordinary ones? Include a drawing of the finished object, and indicate the cost of any items you purchased for this project.
After you have built a container, you must test it against existing mugs; find an ordinary ceramic coffee mug, and a styrofoam cup. Boil some water (or coffee), and pour equal amounts into each of the three containers. Place the containers into a refrigerator or freezer for 10 to 20 minutes (adjust the length of time, if necessary, so that the results allow a fair comparison). Remove the containers from the cold, and measure the temperature of the liquid in each. Use a single thermometer, and measure temperatures in the following order: T(ceramic), T(styrofoam), T(yours), T(yours), T(styrofoam), T(ceramic). Give the thermometer time to reach equilibrium with the liquid in each cup -- perhaps 30 to 45 seconds will do. Average the two measurements from each container. Repeat the procedure so that you have two trials.
Does your design keep liquid warmest?
Submit a report which contains the pictures and descriptions of your experiment, as well as the results. You may also include interesting items you discovered during the course of the procedure.
This page maintained by Michael Richmond. Last modified Jan 6, 1998.
Copyright © Michael Richmond. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.