Academic journal article Science Scope

Should Ice Be Cubed?

Academic journal article Science Scope

Should Ice Be Cubed?

Article excerpt

What kind of ice do you put in your summer drink? Do you prefer crushed, shaved, or cubed? Most in-home, automated ice makers produce crescent-shaped ice. For some, ice is ice, but for others, the shape matters. If you have a preference, is it based on aesthetics or physics? Perhaps you prefer the look of one cube over another in terms of how they stack in a glass. Maybe you enjoy novelty-shaped cubes (see Figure 1). Others may choose one shape over another for scientific reasons--do you want ice that cools your drink the quickest or dilutes it the least?

While ice is usually referred to as ice cubes, indeed, most are not really cubes at all. In this 5E learning-cycle lesson, students will investigate different shapes of ice and how shape affects the speed of melting and the rate of cooling a glass of water. Students will compare three different shapes of ice with the same volume (10 [cm.sup.3]) but different surface areas. The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association states that middle-level students should learn that "modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions" (ITEA 2007, p. 103). This standard introduces the engineering practices of testing and evaluating while students investigate ice melting rates and ice-tray design. As stated in the Framework for K-12 Science Education, under Structure and Properties of Matter, students should understand that "particles combine to form the variety of matter one observes" (NRC 2012, p. 106). Students will discover that melting is a phenomenon that takes place at the surface of a solid, and melting rate is proportional to surface area. This activity can be integrated with a unit dealing with states of matter.

Historical information

People have used ice to preserve food for many centuries. Beginning around 1700, ice was harvested from lakes and ponds in the winter, then stored in sheds called icehouses for use in the summer. By the 1800s, iceboxes were introduced for home use. Blocks of ice were placed near the top of the box, where the cooler, denser air circulated through it (Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium 2003). The use of iceboxes continued until refrigerators became common in the 1930s. In 1932, Guy Tinkham patented the first flexible ice tray, which allowed for the easier removal of ice (Marcus 2007). At about the same time, inventor Lloyd Copeman was walking through slush and snow and noticed that the ice could be easily knocked off of his rubber boots. He used this experience to design ice cube trays made from rubber so the cubes could be readily removed (Clever 1954).




The use of the term ice cube can be traced to Copeman, and while he may not have been the first to use it, the term persists to this day. Ice cube trays are no longer as important as they once were. Automatic ice cube makers have been installed in household refrigerators since the 1950s and have become more and more popular over time, at least for Americans, as Europeans do not usually put ice in their beverages.

Investigating ice-cube shape (teacher background information) Materials

In the Engage activity, each group of students will need a ruler and an ice cube tray in order to determine the shape (and possibly the volume) of a typical ice cube. Ice cube trays are available at dollar stores and can be reused with each class. The Explore activity takes place over two days--the first day will be for constructing the ice cube trays and the second for testing the ice the trays produce. Students should work in groups of three, if possible, on the second day. To construct the ice cube trays, each group will need transparent plastic report covers, scissors, a ruler, and about 1.5 meters of duct tape, as well as a fine-tipped waterproof marker to scribe the plastic and the pattern for the three trays (see Figure 2). …

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