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Submitted by: Randyll Warehime
W. R. Farrington High School
Honolulu, Hawaii.

The pineapple (Ananas comosus ) is a monocot that belongs to the bromeliad family. It is thought to have originated in Brazil and the first record of its introduction to Hawaii is in 1813. In 1900 James B. Dole, whose father was a cousin of Governor Sanford B. Dole, began growing and canning pineapple in central Oahu. By 1958, pineapple had become America's second most important fruit and Hawaii led the world in both quantity and quality of pineapples. The Hawaiians called pineapple hala-kahiki , meaning hala (an indigenous plant used to make woven mats) from a foreign land and though everyone associates pineapple with Hawaii, most production has moved back to foreign lands. Now, only a relatively small acreage is used for the fresh fruit market, all canned pineapple comes from overseas, largely from the Philippines. (Neal, 1965)

The pineapple fruit contains the protein degrading enzyme bromelain, which is extracted and sold in such products as Schilling's Meat Tenderizer. Papaya contains a functionally analogous enzyme.

TOPIC: Enzymes; Digestive System


  • Fresh pineapple, 1 (can be frozen and used later)
  • Canned pineapple, 1
  • Jello , 2 small boxes any flavor
  • Bowl, 1
  • Boiling & Cold water, 4 cups each
  • Spoon, 1
  • Paper cups
  • Knife, 1

If students will eat the gelatin desserts, follow standard sanitary precautions. This is intended to be a demonstration lesson.

  1. Cut the fresh pineapple into cubes.

  2. Make Jello according to instructions on box.

  3. Put one piece of canned pineapple into half of the paper cups and one piece of fresh pineapple into the other half of the cups.

  4. Refrigerate until set. It usually takes longer than one period.

  5. Assign homework: "Which Jello would you like tomorrow and why?" or some sort of variation on that theme.

  6. Serve and observe.

  7. Follow-up question: "What is meat tenderizer and what does it do?"

Jello consists of gelatin (a protein), sugar, and flavoring. Gelatin protein is insoluble. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are soluble. The Jello made with canned pineapple gels and that which is made with fresh pineapple doesn't. The bromelain enzyme in the fresh pineapple degrades the gelatin protein; digests it into a bowl of amino acids--still nutritious!! During the canning process, pineapple is heated to a temperature high enough to denature the bromelain enzyme (a protein itself) making it functionless. Thus, the gelatin protein molecules remain intact and insoluble.

What other fruits contain protein-digesting enzymes? Using fresh pineapple, determine the temperature at which the enzyme denatures.


Neal, Marie C. 1965. In gardens of Hawaii. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.

Scott, Susan. 1991. Plants and animals of Hawaii. Bess Press, Honolulu. (photograph)

This is one of six lessons in "MIXED-PLATE BIOLOGY, HAWAIIAN STYLE", a collection of biological activities that values the cultures of modern Hawaii's multicultural population. The collection includes:

Hawaii is a land of immigrants. The Hawaiians are believed to have arrived around 1000 AD from the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Starting in the 18th century, Europeans and Americans arrived usually involved in missionary work or seafaring trades. Once agricultural plantations of sugar and pineapple were established in the 20th century, workers arrived from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and the Philippines.

Since the plantation days, immigration has been largely from Southeast Asian nations of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand; Korea; the South Pacific nations of Samoa and Tonga; the Philippines; as well as the U.S. mainland. As ethnic diversity increases in our classrooms, let's draw from the various cultures to personalize the concepts of biology.

(About the title: a Mixed Plate is a unique lunch that evolved as new immigrant populations arrived in Hawaii and can include pork adobo from the Philippines, teriyaki beef from Japan, kim chee from Korea, bean soup from Portugal, chow mein from China, traditional Hawaiian foods such as lau lau and poi and of course two scoops of rice.)

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