Award-winning nano-scientist Michelle Dickinson is on a mission to make science and engineering fun, interesting and accessible to all with her new cookbook packed full of fun ‘recipes’, each teaching an important scientific principle in a format that is perfect for parents and children to enjoy together…

Q) What do you think is the biggest barrier to getting kids into science subjects and enjoying them?

I think it’s that they just haven’t spent enough time “playing” with science at a younger age. Science subjects in school are seen as more difficult and can be quite dry, but science in the real world is fun and interesting.  If we can get more younger kids hooked on science through play and discovery, I think they will be more likely to be open to taking science subjects at school.

Q) You excel in making science fun. What are your favourite experiments for kids and why?

I have 50 science experiments that are very different so families can find the ones that fit them the best.  Because our experiments only use ingredients that you would normally find in our kitchen, the goal isn’t to provide a prescription of instructions, but to show parents that science can be taught by them using cheap and simple objects from around the house.

Q) What has been your experience as a woman in science and do you think there is still much more to be done in schools to encourage girls to choose STEM subjects at a higher level?

As an engineer, I have often been a minority throughout my career and have found this challenging and lonely at times.  I think we need to break down some stereotypes around what type of person studies STEM subjects at higher levels by providing diverse positive role models in these fields so that young people can see themselves in industries that they may not have felt welcome in before.

Q) Who is your science hero?

My Dad is my science hero, even though he wasn’t academic, he was the person who believed I could do anything if I put my mind to it.  It was these positive experiences that I had at home, tinkering with electronics with my Dad that led me to be an engineer today.  It’s why I wrote the book, to help families realise how quality time spent discovering and building confidence at home can shape the journey their child goes on in the future.

Recipe: Instant Ice Cream  

Scientific Principle:​ Phase Change  Time Required:​ 10 min

This delicious science recipe will give you ice cream in under 10 minutes!   

Equipment & Ingredients 

  • One small zip-resealable sandwich bag
  • One large zip-resealable plastic bag
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) cream or full fat milk.
  • 12.5g (1 Tbsp) sugar
  • A few drops of vanilla or other flavouring of your choice
  • 3-7 cups of ice
  • 75g (5 Tbsp) salt

Instructions 

  1. Add the cream, sugar, and vanilla to the small bag and seal, ensuring that any excess air is released.
  2. Place the ice, salt and cream-filled bag into the larger bag and seal.
  3. Vigorously shake the large bag over a sink for approximately 5 minutes. Stop when the cream has started to freeze and turn into a solid.
  4. Remove the small bag and quickly rinse off the salt solution with cold water.
  5. Pour the ice cream into a bowl, add your favourite toppings and enjoy eating your newly frozen dessert!

The Science Behind the Homemade Ice Cream:   Ice cream is an emulsion, or a mixture of two liquids (water and fats) which do not normally mix together. To make ice cream, the milk or cream mixture needs to change its state from a liquid to a solid. If the mixture was simply placed straight into the freezer, the water component would freeze first, forming large, crunchy ice crystals. Ice cream tastes better when it is creamy rather than crunchy, so the goal in ice cream making is to create the smallest ice crystals possible. By vigorously shaking the bag, any large ice crystals that may be forming are broken up into smaller crystals, resulting in a smooth and creamy ice cream. The freezing point of ice is lowered by the addition of salt, so it starts to melt. As this ice melts, it draws heat energy from its surroundings – including the cream mixture enclosed in the smaller bag – cooling it enough to cause the liquid cream emulsion to freeze, changing it from a liquid to a solid and forming ice cream.

Explore Further 

  • What happens if you do not shake the bag vigorously when making the ice cream?
  • If you put too much ice cream in your mouth, you may suffer from what is called ‘brain freeze’ or an ‘ice cream headache’. Placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth should stop the headache – why do you think this is?
  • Taste the ice cream frozen, then taste it again when it has melted. One should taste much sweeter than the other, why do you think this is?

Recipe: Scrumptious Slime  

Scientific Principle: Viscosity   Time: ​45 minutes cooking time, 2 hours cooling time.

This slime flows like a liquid but can be rolled like a solid – and the best part is that it’s edible!

Equipment & Ingredients 

  • Saucepan
  • Plastic sandwich bag
  • 395g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 10g (1 Tbsp) cornflour/cornstarch
  • 45ml (3 Tbsp) chocolate syrup

 

 

 

Instructions 

  1. Pour the milk into the saucepan and heat on a low heat.
  2. Slowly stir the cornflour into the warm milk. Continue heating and stirring over a low heat for 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate syrup.
  4. Place in a sandwich bag and refrigerate.
  5. Once cold, roll and squeeze into any slimy shape you want – and watch it flow!

The Science Behind Edible Slime: Cornflour or cornstarch is a starch made up of long chains of sugar molecules called glucose which are joined together in a coiled up ball. When exposed to heat and milk, the starch particles absorb water from the milk, causing them to swell. These swollen particles start to press up against each other. This reduces the movement of the liquid, resulting in it thickening or becoming more viscous. Eventually the starch particles burst, freeing up long strands of starch which swell further and absorb the fluid outside the particles. This traps the remaining water in the mixture and turns it into a highly viscous gel or slime. The slime flows like a thick liquid but can be rolled around like a soft solid. The advantage of this recipe is that the slime is edible once you have finished with it!

Explore Further 

  • What edible treats could you add to your slime to add more texture? Does this change the way that it flows?
  • How does the slime flow differently when it is warm compared to when it is cold? Why is this?
  • Can you think of other ingredients you could add, instead of the chocolate sauce, to make different flavoured edible slime?

Recipe: Solar Cookie Oven 

Scientific Principle: Solar Energy   Time required: 1 hour

Usually, ovens are powered using electricity or gas. This experiment uses the sun’s own natural energy – or solar power – to heat an oven that bakes cookies.

Equipment & Ingredients

  • Clear tape / sticky tape or glue Black paper
  • A warm, sunny day!
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Pizza box (a cereal box will work)
  • Utility knife
  • Aluminium foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Cookie dough: 15g (1 Tbsp) butter, 30g (2 Tbsp) sugar, 25g (4 Tbsp) plainflour, 5ml (1 tsp), chocolate chips.

Instructions

  1. Use a pencil and ruler to mark 2.5cm (1 inch) in from each side on the pizzabox lid and draw a square to connect the marks.
  2. Cut along the front and side lines of the square with the utility knife. Foldalong the back line so that it acts as a hinge.
  3. Line the inside of the flap and the inside walls of the box with foil, and tape orglue in place.
  4. Seal the cut-out window shape by taping a sheet of plastic wrap over the hole.
  5. Glue or tape a sheet of black paper to the bottom of the inside of the box.
  6. Mix the cookie dough ingredients and roll into small balls, then flatten withyour hand.
  7. Arrange the discs of dough on a sheet of foil and place on top of the blackpaper inside the box.
  8. Prop the cut-out lid at a75 degreeangle (approx) using a pencil and some tape. Leave outside facing the sun until cookies are ready (anything from 15-60 minutes).
  9. Carefully remove the cookies from the box and allow to cool – then eat!

The Science Behind the Solar Oven: Solar ovens use heat emitted from the sun, called solar energy, to cook food. The foil reflects sunlight into the box, and the plastic wrap acts like a greenhouse by preventing the heated air inside the box from escaping. As more heat from the sun streams into the box, the air inside gradually becomes warmer. The black paper in the bottom of the box absorbs the warm sunlight, which in turn heats the food placed on top of it.

Explore Further

  • What other items can you cook in the solar oven? Could you bake a potato or even a pizza?
  • Does changing the angle of the reflector flap change how efficient the solar oven is at cooking?
  • Try using the oven on a warm but cloudy day. Does it still cook the cookies? Why do you think that is?

The Kitchen Science Cookbook by Dr. Michelle Dickinson is available now from Amazon. RRP £19.99 HB. Find out more at uk.kitchensciencecookbook.com

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan

Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.