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Fast and Easy Science Fair Projects: Pop a Treat

Updated on December 30, 2019
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Oven mittsRulerLunch-paper bags (2)Microwave ovenPaper plates (2)PencilKernels of unpopped popcornAdhesive tape
Oven mitts
Oven mitts
Lunch-paper bags (2)
Lunch-paper bags (2)
Microwave oven
Microwave oven
Paper plates (2)
Paper plates (2)
Kernels of unpopped popcorn
Kernels of unpopped popcorn
Adhesive tape
Adhesive tape

     This is my 27th hub on Fast and Fair Science Fair Projects. This one is extremely easy and fun! I'm sure you'll enjoy reading and trying out this one too, especially kids! Have fun!

The Physics of Popcorn

Purpose: If it's moisture that causes popcorn to pop, is it measurable?

Overview: Smelling the distinct aroma of freshly popped popcorn probably brings to mind a trip to a movie theater to see a great movie. Popcorn is a healthy and tasty food.

     The kernels of corn used to make popcorn have a strong airtight outer covering that seals moisture inside. When heat is applied, the moisture turns into superheated steam. This pressure build-up eventually bursts through the outer coat, expanding the contents to about thirty times its original size. Of course, the moisture escapes, but how much? Is it possible to quantify the amount lost during the popping process?

Hypothesis: Hypothesize that the moisture in a serving size of popcorn kernels, which causes the kernels to pop when heated and escapes as steam, is not measurable - even though we are able to see it as steam.

You need:

  • An adult
  • Kernles of unpopped popcorn
  • 2 brown paper lunch bags
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • A microwave oven
  • 2 paper plates
  • Adhesive tape
  • Oven mitts

Procedure: Tape a small paper plate onto each end of a ruler, to keep them from moving, and make a balance scale by placing a pencil at the middle of the ruler with the paper plates.

     Put fifty kernels of unpopped popcorn in a small brown paper lunch bag. Put fifty kernels in another lunch bag. Place one bad at the center of each paper plate.

     Try to balance the two bags by adding kernels to the lighter of the bags. When you have the two bags balanced, remove one of the bags, being careful not to bump the ruler, pencil or the other bag.

     Fold the very top of the bad closed, to keep the popping kernels inside the bad. Place the bag in a microwave oven and have an adult help you set the controls and pop the kernels in the bag.

     When the popping is done, take the bad out (use over mitts to prevent being burned) and open the bag. Do you steam coming out? This is visual proof that there was water in the popcorn kernels, which was heater to steam and has now just been released. The question is whether or not the lost moisture is measurable.

     Place the bag back onto the balance scale, positioning the bag in the center of he plate as before. The number of kernels in the microwaved bag has remained Constant, and the moisture content is the Variable.

     It's okay if there are a few kernels that remain unpopped. Can you detect any noticeable difference in weight? If so, was the bag of popcorn lighter than the bag of unpopped kernals? Eat the popcorn. Enjoy!

Results and Conclusion: Write down the results of your experiment. Come to a conclusion as to whether or not your hypothesis was correct.

Something more: The reason some kernals of corn don't pop can be because there is a scratch or break in their airtight coating, which lets steam escape slowly and prevents sufficient pressure build-up. You may want to try an experiment and see if you can prevent kernels from popping by scratching their surface or carefully poking them with the sharp point of a drawing compass (use caution when handling sharp tools).

     Thanks for reading this one! Hope you liked it! If you want more on Fast and Easy Science Fair Projects, you can try my other Hubs relating to the topic. Here are five of my Latest Hubs on Fast and Easy Science Fair Projects for you:


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