How Good is Your Sense of Smell?
5th – 8th grades
Difficulty of Project
Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project
One hour to complete the investigation and collect the data; one day to prepare the science fair display
To determine if family members can recognize one another using only the sense of smell
Materials and Equipment
- Shirt recently taken off of each subject
Just like fingerprints, each person has a unique smell. This unique smell is called an odortype. Every living thing gives off a scent. These scents are made up of molecules that evaporate and enter the air. The olfactory receptor neurons in the nose gather the scent molecules and send a message to the brain. Humans can recognize about 10,000 different smells.
In this investigation, subjects try to identify the smell of family members by smelling clothes recently worn by family members.
Terms, Concepts, and Questions to Start Background Research
olfactory receptor neurons: neurons in deep in the nasal cavity that receive and recognize smells
odortype: a mammal’s unique smell
- Does each person have a unique smell?
- Do people recognize the unique smell of family members?
- Why do people have unique smells?
- Decide on the subjects to be used in this study. The subjects should be people from your own family, but also test people from another family.
- Gather a shirt from each of your subjects. The shirts should have been taken recently from the subjects’ bodies.
- Assign each shirt a letter identification. For example: Mom’s shirt = A, Dad’s shirt = B, little brother Max’s shirt = C, and so on.
- Blindfold a subject and have him or her sit in a chair. One at a time, hold each of the shirts under the subject’s nose. Do not allow the subject to touch the shirts. Ask the subject to guess who the shirt belongs to. Record the responses.
- Repeat Step 3 with each of the subjects.
“Your Odor: Unique as Fingerprint” by Andrea Thompson at Live Science.com, 2008
“How We Smell” by Corey Binns at Live Science.com, 2006
“Your Sense of Smell” at www.yucky.discovery.com
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.