Taking America's Measures-Fun Activities for Kids Go to the National Institute of Standards and Technology homepage

Word Find Definitions

baby food

NIST helps baby food makers and other food processors measure the exact amounts of fat, protein, vitamins, and calories in their products, so food labels are correct.


Building a car is kind of like a puzzle with 15,000 different pieces that have to fit together just right. NIST helps car part makers measure parts very accurately so that even when they're made in different places, the parts fit perfectly.


Voltage is a measure of how forcefully electricity travels. If the water pressure in your pipes is too low, your shower won't work well. If the voltage in your home's electrical lines is too low, your toast won't toast. All measures of electrical voltage in the United States are determined through NIST standards.


NIST researchers study the way sofas, dressers, beds, and mattresses burn so furniture makers can build products that are less likely to catch fire.


NIST has the most accurate clock in the United States! Our clock helps keep the official time for our country and the world. Businesses, banks, and communication and navigation systems set their clocks by ours. To see the current time, select your time zone from the map on this web site http://nist.time.gov


NIST develops standards for measuring electricity. These standards are used to make sure many electrical instruments work properly, including pocket computer games and the electric meter that determines your electric bill.

smoke detector

In 1974, NIST developed and recommended the first standards and guidelines for smoke detector use. Over the next 25 years, smoke detector use in U.S. homes grew from 10 percent to 95 percent, and fire deaths dropped by 50 percent.


Your refrigerator contains lots of fluids: milk, juices, sodas, and iced tea, for example. There's a completely different kind of fluid inside your refrigerator's machinery to keep these drinks cold. Until a few years ago, this mechanical fluid was harmful to the environment if it somehow leaked out. NIST helped refrigerator manufacturers find safer cooling fluids, so all new refrigerators are more environmentally-friendly.


House fires are especially dangerous at night when people are sleeping. In 1971, the U.S. government started requiring manufacturers to make children's pajamas out of fabric that did not catch fire easily. NIST helped develop the tests used evaluate fire safety of children's pajamas.


Thank NIST next time you enjoy some freshly baked cookies! Thermostats in your stove contain sensors that measure temperature. The sensor manufacturers rely on NIST to make sure their devices are accurate. That means that the actual temperature of the oven is very close to the temperature indicated on the dial of the oven, and your cookies won't burn or be underbaked.


Companies that make drugs need very accurate scales to weigh the ingredients for our medicines. NIST has the most accurate mass standards in the country. These standards are used by instrument makers to ensure their scales weigh things accurately. NIST also makes measurement standards for the instruments that test the quality of our medicines.

seat belt

Experiments at NIST in the 1960s can be credited with bringing shoulder harness restraints to your car's seat belts. NIST investigations helped improve the reliability of crash dummy tests and supported the need for shoulder harnesses.


Insulation is everywhere--behind walls, around hot water heaters, and in grocery trucks. It saves energy by keeping hot things hot and cold things cold. Some kinds of insulation can harm the Earth's atmosphere. NIST is studying new kinds of insulation that might work better and not harm the environment. NIST helps industry figure out how well insulation does its job.


Laptop computers are so lightweight they can go almost anywhere. Even so, their thin, flip-up screens can be more difficult to read than the large monitors that come with desktop computers due to brighter lighting than you would find at your desktop. NIST works on ways to measure the sharpness, brightness, and color on laptop computers and other kinds of displays.


Since energy is such a precious resource, the U.S. Department of Energy requires that makers of microwave ovens, and other kitchen appliances, tell how much energy their products consume. NIST tested microwave ovens to see how much energy they use. Now the microwave makers use NIST-backed test methods to test their products.


Did you know that when you talk to a friend on the telephone, your voice may be transmitted over a very long glass fiber that's thinner than a single hair? These tiny fibers can send voice signals, pictures, email, and even movies much faster than old copper wires. NIST makes a standard that helps align these fibers so your phone call goes through clearly.


During the 1970s, NIST worked with television broadcasters to develop a system for transmitting captions with TV shows. The resulting closed captioning system for the deaf and hearing impaired won an Emmy Award in 1980.


NIST built one of the very first computers in the United States in the late 1940's. Though slow and clunky by our standards, it was an amazing machine and produced many computing firsts. For example, NIST used it to make the first computerized scan of a photograph in 1957. NIST has been helping the computer industry ever since, especially with the development of ways to measure these incredibly tiny circuits.


We love every last drop of our milk! And NIST helps make sure you get every drop you pay for by working with milk bottlers and government inspectors on accurate filling of milk containers. NIST shows both inspectors and milk bottlers how to measure how much milk is actually in school lunch milk cartons to within tenths of an ounce.


Static on your favorite radio station can be really annoying. Back in the 1920s, when radio was a new technology, static and poor reception were a big problem. NIST helped broadcasters send clearer signals by developing standard signals, which we call frequency standards. To this day, NIST frequency standards help keep radio, television, and cell phone signals clear.


We can't live without water, so it's very important that we keep our water clean and safe to drink. How do we know it's clean? Labs check water samples to see if they contain harmful chemicals. NIST makes special samples of water for labs to see if their measurements are correct.

CD player

CD players allow us to take great-sounding music almost anywhere. CD players read a compact disc with tiny lasers. NIST measurements have helped manufacturers produce lasers reliable enough give us great sounding music from CD players.

deli meats

When you ask for a pound of sliced turkey, how do you know you're getting a pound? Scales in stores are checked by state inspectors. State inspectors have their scales checked by NIST.

light bulb

We need thousands of different sized light bulbs for stadium lights, flashlights, runway lights, and dashboard lights. All these light bulbs have to give off just the right amount of light for their job. NIST has standards that light bulb manufacturers use to make sure their products give off the right amount of light.


Bet you never thought apple leaves could be used as a ruler! Well, NIST used the leaves of apple trees from orchards in Pennsylvania to make a chemical ruler. This ruler lets scientists measure different kinds of chemical elements in our food very accurately.

Created: July 12, 2001
Last updated: May 01, 2015
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov


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