Welcome to part two of our science fair series — Today, we’re walking you through the magnetic breakfast project, where we’ll measure the amount of iron found in different cereals. 

Our bodies need iron; it’s an essential mineral used to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. An iron deficiency will lead to low energy, shortness of breath, dizziness, weight loss, and low mood. If the deficiency continues, we could develop iron deficiency anemia. Fortunately, most of us are able to get enough iron from the foods we eat.

However, some people don’t get enough natural irons, which are typically found in leafy green vegetables and red meat. For that reason, iron is added to some foods, including cereal. 

For this project, we’re looking at how much iron is in our breakfast cereal. While this particular project is more suitable for your younger kiddos, they’ll still need your supervision. Remember to always handle magnets with care. Refer to our safety tips for more information. 

Project #2: Magnetic Breakfast — Measuring Iron in Cereal

How much iron do you think is in your cereal? In this science fair project, you will test and compare four types of cereal for supplemental iron. Which brand do you think will have the most iron for you to extract? Note the importance of the “Percent Daily DV” (DV) on the cereal’s nutrition label. These numbers are based on recommendations for nutrients in a 2,000 calorie daily diet. 

Materials & Goal

Choose four types of cereal with varying levels of iron (see below). For each cereal test, you’ll need a little over a cup (250 milliliters) of cereal.

You will also need the following items and materials to complete this science project: 

  • 12 mm x 6mm disc magnet
  • Four types of cereal
    • 25% DV of iron or less
    • 25% - 75% DV of iron
    • 75% DV or iron or more
    • Any other cereal
  • Blender
  • 2 gallons of distilled water
  • 4 Clear one-liter plastic bottles
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Two metric measuring cups 
  • Large bowl

The goal of this science experiment is to test which cereals contain the most supplemental iron. 

10 Steps to Measure Iron in Cereal

  1. Cut off the bottom of four plastic bottles; remove the lids.
  2. Duct tape the magnet to the outside of the bottle; placement should be about halfway down; label the bottles as per cereal (e.g., Cheerios, Special K, Raisin Bran). 
  3. Blend the measured cereal with 250 mL distilled water until you have a smooth substance with no chunks; pour into the liquid measuring cup.
  4. Rinse the blender with a very small amount of water (20 mL); pour this remaining amount into the same measuring cup.
  5. Above a large bowl, pour the mixture into the bottle through the large opening and into the bowl; the magnet should be underneath, facing the bowl.
    1. Make sure the mixture passes slowly over the magnet.
    2. Re-blend the mixture with 100 mL distilled water if it becomes hard to pour.
  6. After you pour all of the mixture, pour 150 mL water through to rinse with a fresh measuring cup. 
  7. Flip the bottle to get rid of excess water; remove the magnet. 
  8. Let the bottle air-dry for two hours on a stable surface.
  9. Observe whether there is any iron in the bottle.
    • Record on a scale based on four data points: “None,” “Small amount,” “Medium amount,” and “Large amount.”

Test Four Different Cereals for Iron

  1. Test (first cereal)
  • Record the amount of iron on the nutrition label.
  • Complete steps above to measure iron.
  • Observe whether you attract any iron; record your observations in a notebook (“None,” “Small amount,” “Medium amount,” “Large amount”).
  1. Test (second cereal)
  • Record the amount of iron on the nutrition label.
  • Complete steps above to measure iron.
  • Observe whether you attract any iron; record your observations in a notebook (“None,” “Small amount,” “Medium amount,” “Large amount”).
  1. Test (third cereal)
  • Record the amount of iron on the nutrition label.
  • Complete steps above to measure iron.
  • Observe whether you attract any iron; record your observations in a notebook (“None,” “Small amount,” “Medium amount,” “Large amount”).
  1. Test (fourth cereal)
  • Record the amount of iron on the nutrition label.
  • Complete steps to measure iron.
  • Observe whether you attract any iron; record your observations in a notebook (“None,” “Small amount,” “Medium amount,” “Large amount”).

Analyze Data

While you won’t be able to gather an exact measurement of how much iron is in each cereal, you can take meticulous notes and record based on the scale (“None,” “Little amount,” “Medium amount,” and “Large amount”). Once you’ve completed all four cereal tests, reflect on your observations. 

Now, make a scatter plot of your data with percent DV on the y-axis and amount of iron on the x-axis. Analyze your data and draw conclusions about which cereal had the most/least iron. How does that data compare to what you read on the nutrition label?

Stayed Tuned for the Third Project

Next week, we’ll cover a third science fair project that involves magnets. If you like this series, let us know! And, as always, if you have any ideas for science fair projects that show off the power or relevance of magnets, let us know! We may include you and your idea in our next blog!