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Science Rocks!

Drinking Straw Pulse Measurer


your results

Sent in by:
Sara of Schenectady, NY and Uriah of Reading, OH

Fingers can feel a heartbeat; but to SEE it, use a straw!

Materials Needed

  • straws
  • clay
  • paper and pens for charting
  • watch or timer that measures seconds



  1. Seeing your heartbeat makes it easier to measure.
  2. Draw a chart to record you pulse rates. Write your name (and your friends' names) across the top in separate columns. Write "standing" in the top row on the left side.
  3. To make a drinking straw pulse measurer, you first need to find your pulse with your fingers. Put two fingers on the side of your neck, near the front, and move them around until you can feel something thumping under your skin. That's your pulse. What you're feeling is your blood being pumped around your body by your heart.
  4. Put a piece of clay over your neck where your pulse feels the strongest.
  5. Stick a straw into the clay so that it's sticking straight out from your neck. You might need a friend's help for this part.
  6. To get your pulse rate, count how many times the straw moves in one minute. To save time, you can also count the number of times the straw moves in 15 seconds and then multiply that by four. You can also find a pulse on your arm, temples, and even your ankle. Try it!
  7. Write your pulse rate under your name on the chart. Is your rate faster or slower than your friends' rates?
  8. Do you think your pulse rate is always the same? Could you do something to change it? Come up with different activities that you think might change your pulse rate. Write them in separate columns along the left side of your chart.
  9. First try the activities you think will slow your pulse rate down. Then try the ones you think will speed it up. Calculate your pulse rate for each activity and write it under your name in the row for that activity.
  10. Is there a difference between your pulse rates for each activity? Were you right about which activities speed up and slow down your pulse? Why do you think there is or isn't a difference between pulse rates?

Here's the sci scoop on why different activities speed up or slow down your pulse rate: When your heart beats, it pumps blood to all the different parts of your body. The blood brings fresh oxygen to your muscles, which your muscles need for energy. Blood also takes away waste. When your muscles are working hard, they need more oxygen for energy, so your heart speeds up so it can pump more blood. When your body is relaxing, your muscles need less oxygen for energy so your heart doesn't need to pump as quickly.
What else could you do to change your pulse rate? Would standing on your head or taking a cold shower make a difference? Test your ideas, and send your results to ZOOM.

Some of your Results

Alina, age 11 of New York, NY wrote:
Unfortunately this experiment didn't work for me. The straw didn't move.

Tori, age 15 of Jessup, PA wrote:
My grade is holding a health fair for the 5th grade at my school and we are using this experiment to show them their pulse. I will send in the results

Malique, age 10 of Fall River, MA wrote:
I did it the same way as you did it, but it was'nt hard, and I did'nt have a stopwatch.

Brooke, age 12 of Fitchburg, MA wrote:
I used play-doh instead of clay. The straw didn't stay in right, so it didn't work. I didn't have any clay!

Eric of Perth Andover, NT wrote:
My pulse was 47 then when I ran it was 135 I was surpised.

Ian, age 13 of New Brunswick, NB wrote:
My pulse is 80 then when I ran it was 169.

Samantha, age 16 of Indianapolis, IN wrote:
First my pulse was 52. l ran 1 mile then my pulse was 234.

Rebekah, age 11 of MI wrote:
When I took my normal pulse it was 48. After runing for a min my pulse was 120. And when I relaxed my pulse was higher 56.

Jeremy & Kayla, age 11 of Montreal wrote:
Me:Normal:(15 secs)12x4=48 Relaxed:9x4=36 After exercising:25x4=100 MySister:Normal:13x4=52 Relaxed:11x4=44 After excersising:22x4=88

Slater, age 5 of Hutchinson, KS wrote:
My mother is a fitness trainer and thought it very interesting. She had a good laugh watching me run around the house and then watching the straw bounce up and down on my neck.

Caroline, age 10 of Mississauga wrote:
My pulse was 122.

Tiffany, age 9 of San Jose, CA wrote:
I ran around the room for one minute I checked my pluse and it was thirty-three but when I add it by four it was 102.

Claire, age 8 of Lake Oswego, OR wrote:
On the show you tried changing your pulse by running and relaxing, why don't you try changing it by cooling off or heating up your body?

Alonso, age 14 of MI wrote:
I noticed my heart was beating really hard and would move the straw farther every now and then, at rest my heartbeat was 54 but after running up and down our driveway barefoot for 5min I could make my heartbeat up too 187! I have a stethoscope too me and my friends used it in the experiment too and found that I have a heart murmur that souds like a washing machine between beats. And my friend's heart would beat really fast slow down and beat fast again while at rest the Human Heart is an amazing organ isn't it?

Haley, age 10 of Sherwood, AR wrote:
My pulse was 122 when I sat and relaxed and 198 when I ran it was sooo cool when I swa that straw going up and down.

Ali, age 12 of Freeport, ME wrote:
When I first tried it my regular heartbeat was 60. I had measured my fear heartbeat and it was 180 times!!! That was so sweet! My friends think I'm nuts, but it is so cool!!!

Scotty, age 6 of Needham, MA wrote:
First I jogged for 1 minute and my pulse was 132. Then I rested for 1 minute and my pulse was 112.

Ahmaad, age 8 of Symrna, GA wrote:
You know about your Drinking straw pulse measurer? I tried to see by drinking cold water to make it go slow then hot water to make it go fast why don't you try it?

Abby, age 9 of Geneseo, IL wrote:
I know a different way you can do it. Use 5 min. times 10. Try doing it after you run then write it down. Rest then try again. See how much you raised when you ran.

Angela, age 11 of Chicago, IL wrote:
My heart beat was 73 beats per minute.

Morgan, age 11 of Rocky Mount, NC wrote:
I placed it on my neck. My friend counted how many times the straw moved in like 10 sec. It went 9 times which my prediction came true!!

Kayla, age 14 of Jackson, MS wrote:
I tried running around and after that I put the clay and straw on me and it kept coming off but I got use to it and I finally did it right.

Christina, age 10 of Cambridge wrote:
When I did it it didn't work as well as I thought it would because whenever I put the straw on my pulse it kept sliding of of my neck. The same thing happened when I tried it on the other side too. What can I do?

Tara, age 16 of Concord, NC wrote:
I had my friend count how many times the straw moved before and after watching scary movie it was a 26 beat difference.

Emily, age 11 of Carlisle, MA wrote:
When I was angry my pulse quickened.

Torrie, age 12 of Paynesville, MN wrote:
That was really cool. My bpm was 87 when I sit down. My bpm was134 when I ran and when I slept it was72. This was really fun.

Maria, age 12 of St-Laurent, QC wrote:
When I ran, My pulse went up to 214!!!

Brina, age 10 of Huber Heights, OH wrote:
It moved!!! Me and my brother did it. When I did it standing it was 69 when I did it running it was 101!!! For my brother when he stood it was 69 and when he ran it was 77!!! This is incredible!!!

Amber, age 8 wrote:
At rest it was 104. then I ran and it was 144. After that I did 10 jumping jacks and it was 152. Then I ran in place and it was 160. Then I rest for 5 minutes and it was 116.

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