The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Learning through Cooking: Ms. Kuei’s Stoichiometry Challenge

By Staff Writers Shuhan Jin & Abha Kulkarni

Hosted on March 22 during lunch, Honors Chemistry Teacher Katy Kuei hosted MSJ’s first ever Stoichiometry Eats challenge in C-16, inspired by the class’s stoichiometry unit, which is the study of using ratios to determine the relative quantities of substances in a chemical reaction. With eight teachers and many students participating, the event was a major success, with students able to apply and demonstrate their understanding of their topic in a tasty way.

Since the key part of this challenge was the emphasis on the class’s stoichiometry unit, Kuei’s sophomore students incorporated stoichiometric ratios while preparing a variety of home-made foods from savory dishes such as spicy caisun noodles to baked desserts like tres leches cake. In the first round of the challenge, each student presented their dishes to their individual class periods while voting for the best tasting dish. Once the top five students from each of the five periods were announced, these 25 students moved on to the final round of the challenge to compete for the title of top chef. The final round of the Stoichiometry Eats challenge took place during the lunch period on March 22, in which teachers and class winners were invited to vote for their favorite dish. 

Featuring foods of different flavors, cultures, and presentation, this lunch event was very successful. Sophomore Ryan Vargese’s cake pops, labeled and arranged in the shape and order of the periodic table of elements, were a major attraction at the challenge. “I’m so impressed,” Kuei said. “For example, the periodic table cake pops; that takes passion to come up with each individual element and then labeling them and arranging a [periodic table].” Many students spent hours perfecting their dishes in both a presentable and tasteful manner. This event pioneered a path for cooking in learning. “I think it would be fun for my students [to eventually join this challenge]” AP Chemistry Teacher Oana Seremeta said. 

Yet this large-scale project created many technical and creative roadblocks for each competitor. While creating his chocolate chip waffles, Sophomore Vedatman Duhoon needed to measure his batter meticulously in order to ensure the best result for his waffles. “When I was making my initial waffles it was very hard to gauge how much batter would be correct for the waffles, leading to my waffles either being undercooked or being in a really weird shape.” But just like in a chemistry procedure, through continually experimenting with the specific amounts of each ingredient, Duhoon and other competitors could achieve their desired product. For example, Sophomore Nancy Li, one of the class winners of sixth period, did a lot of pre-planning before she began cooking. “I searched a lot of relevant recipes online before I actually started. Since the ratio of each ingredient varied in different versions, I tried each of the different ratios in order to find the most suitable one,” Li said. 


In the future, Kuei plans to bring back the challenge for her students in the years to come, and even make the challenge a tradition among the stoichiometry unit. She also hopes that the challenge will allow students to explore chemistry in a fun and unique way. “Even though this is a fun event, we still have learned very much at the core of the activity, [which is] developing stoichiometry reasoning,” Kuei said.

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