The Marshmallow Challenge: teamwork and engineering in action

My son's favorite school activity lately was The Marshmallow Challenge, as seen on Tom Wujec's website.  Each team had eighteen minutes to plan and build a tower with tape, 20 pieces of spaghetti, scissors, and a marshmallow to put on top. My son's group of four came up with their class's winning design: a spaghetti leg tripod with a single strand of spaghetti reaching up (like a camera tripod).

Color Changing Nerds

Eight years ago, my four year old wanted to put Nerds in water. We put them in water, they dissolved, the water turned purple, we threw it out, and Candy Experiments were born.

But we didn't know that there was more to learn! This Halloween we put purple Nerds in water, and left it a few days. As the dye decomposed, the water turned red!

A solution of purple Nerds in water (left) ends up fading to red after a few days (right)

Genes Affect Sweetness Perception

Is there such a thing as a sweet tooth? Maybe it's a sweet tongue. A recent study published in Twin Research and Human Genetics found that "about 30% of variations in sweet taste perception can be attributed to genetics," and that people who perceive sweet taste less strongly might therefore add more sugar when sweetening something like coffee or cereal.

Summarized in "Genes Affect Sweet Taste Percepetion," Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter Oct 2015, page 2

Best use of candy corn: Corn Bread or Candy Experiments?

Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, suggests families use up leftover candy corn this way: cook it into cornbread! ( *"Cook with Leftover Candy!" Time Oct 27, 2014, page 81) All you need, apparently, is a standard cornbread recipe with 3 oz chopped candy corn, which dissolves into the batter when you refrigerate it overnight. Stir it the next day to mix the dye into the batter, and cook. Of course, if you do, you're still eating all of the sugar and dye you might have been trying to avoid.

Here's how we play with candy corn: "Skin the Candy" from Candy Experiments. Just drop your candy corn in warm water and watch the glaze peel off like snakeskin.