Island 3 Vernier-Best Cup Design

Scientific Data and Analysis

Explore how insulators keep  hot things hot and cold things cold. Can you design the "best" insulated cup? Not all cups are alike, and the materials they are made of can determine how well they move heat into or out of your drink. One cup holding hot chocolate could burn your hands and another may barely warm them. Can you design, build, and test to make the best insulated cup? 

Vernier-Best Cup Design

The Science of Insulation

Heat is a type of energy called thermal energy. Heat will always travel from areas of high thermal energy to areas of low thermal energy. This is why your hot soup gets cold if you leave it sitting out. Since the soup has a much higher thermal energy than its surroundings, its heat gets transferred from the soup to the air, bowl, and table. We cannot stop it from moving completely, but there are ways to slow it down.

Conductors and Insulators

Heat travels at different rates through different materials. For example, you may have noticed that many metals are good conductors of heat, meaning they transfer heat quickly from one object to another. Other materials, like most types of plastic, conduct heat very slowly.

Barriers that slow down the transfer of thermal energy between two substances are called insulators. There will always be some heat that can move through an insulator, but it is much less than if it were a conductor. This increases how long a substance can stay at its original temperature when in a hotter or colder environment.

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