07 Information Search

2021 Topic: Flavors

Limited to the first 18 entries



The smell of fresh strawberries in springtime makes me happy.  Are there smells or flavors that favorably stimulate your senses?  Those "natural flavors" are due to chemicals in the plants that we taste and smell.  Both senses are very important to be able to identify a "taste" - hold your nose and see if you can recognize the difference between different tasty foods. 

This year’s Info Search event gives you a chance to investigate the structures of several chemicals that are a large part of unique tastes. The scientific names along with the associated flavor and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers are:

Ethyl methylphenylglycidate (strawberry) (CAS No. 77-83-8)
R-(+)-menthofuran (part of peppermint) (CAS No. 17957-94-7)
R-(-)-carvone (spearmint) (CAS No. 6485-40-1)
Raspberry ketone (CAS No. 5471-51-2)

Event-Specific Requirements:

  • A team of 2 or 3 students must compete in this event. 
  • Schools with more than one team MUST select different molecules to research and present.  The teams MUST compete in the same time slot.
  • BEFORE the day of the event, the team will select one of the molecules and make a molecular model using low-density Styrofoam balls and wooden skewers.  
  • The team should be prepared to use the Internet to answer general knowledge questions about all the molecules in the Information Search portion of the event. 
  • The Information Search portion of the event is to be completed in 25 minutes ON THE DAY OF COMPETITION.
  • The team should be prepared to answer two oral questions about their molecule. 
    • Question #1 will focus on molecular geometry (such as chirality, identifying co-planar atoms, hybridization, bond lengths, and angles).
    •  Question #2 will focus on the relationship between structure and function.  Note: Students are not expected to know specific proprietary information about the compounds.  They should however, understand the importance and role of different functional groups.

Molecule Guidelines:

  • The molecular model should be made using painted Styrofoam balls and wooden skewers. Most spray paints will cause Styrofoam to denature ("melt"); be careful to buy the special Styrofoam spray paint. BE AWARE THAT low-density Styrofoam balls crumble when rubbed together.  Make sure to use protective gear as necessary when preparing your model; read the safety and usage information carefully on the glue and paint. Use different sized Styrofoam balls to represent the relative sizes of atoms and paint them according to the color code below.  The maximum size permitted is 3-inch balls.  Wooden skewers and glue are to be used for the bonds. The model may be mounted on cardboard or kept in a box for transportation; however, it must be fully visible on all sides during the live event to judge it properly.  No other materials other than Styrofoam balls, Paint, Wooden Skewers and Glue are permitted!  Styrofoam balls, wooden skewers, glue and Styrofoam spray paint can be purchased at Michaels or other craft stores.  Wooden skewers may also be found at a supermarket (ex: Shop Rite).
  • COLOR CODE:  Use black for carbon, white for hydrogen, red for oxygen, blue for nitrogen, green for chlorine, yellow for iodine and orange for phosphorus.
  • The model will be judged as to how accurately it represents the molecule’s structure.  The team must provide a key that provides information about bond angles, bond lengths, and hybridization in the molecule, which should be shared with the judges on Event Day.

Event Day Information:

  • On Event Day each team should have one representative have their physical model virtually available for judging who may be asked to move and rotate the model for the judges.  During the allocated session, each team will participate in the "Internet Search" and "Molecule Questioning" portions of the event.
  • On the day of the competition, student teams will be asked two oral questions about their model.  Teams will orally respond to the questions in order to demonstrate their knowledge and clarify their reasoning.  Student responses should not exceed 3 minutes.  Students may also be asked for points of clarification if there is any confusion about their model.
  • Teams will be asked four Information Search questions on Event Day, either before or after their presentation of their model.  In order to provide written answers to the four questions, each team will be provided with one computer with access to the Internet.  At the completion of the scheduled session, each team must submit their written answers to the questions provided.  Questions may be about these molecules or other molecules of the same type, with the intention that the answer must be researched and cited.
  • There are only FOUR written questions, they may be somewhat more difficult and extra attention should be paid to properly citing information provided.  Answers with no citations will earn fewer points than properly cited answers.  Standard academic integrity rules apply to the Information Search question answers.
  • Students may consult journal articles or scholarly (.edu) websites to research the compounds.  Do not reference Google or media websites - only journal articles or scholarly (.edu) websites can be cited to earn points.

Judging Criteria:

  • Model construction including bond and hybridization key (50%)
  • Answer to two oral questions about the model on Event day (25%)
  • Answers to four written information search questions on Event day (25%)


NJIT Research and User Services Chemistry & Environmental Sciences Librarian:

Quinn Morris-Pearson