Science fair experiments involving popcorn work well for many students because they do not involve unusual supplies or an extensive time commitment. Students' experiments to determine which popcorn pops the best can be adapted for science fair projects of varying complexity for students of any age.
One of the easiest popcorn experiments is to see which brand of microwave popcorn pops the best. The materials required for this experiment are two or more bags of popcorn for each brand included in the study. The same amount of microwave time is used for all bags to objectively see which popcorn pops the best. Potential ways to measure the best popping include recording the total volume of popcorn, the number of unpopped kernels, or the ratio of popped to unpopped kernels.
Microwave vs. Stove-Popped
Another experiment examines whether popcorn pops better in the microwave or on the stove. This project requires six bags of the same brand of microwave popcorn. One at a time, the student puts three of the bags of popcorn in the microwave. The student cuts open the other three bags, pouring each into a large pan on the stove, which is covered and heated for a set amount of time. To record the results of the experiment, the student should note any differences in the texture of the popcorn, in addition to differences in the volume of popcorn and the number of unpopped kernels.
Wet vs. Dry
Moisture can affect popcorn's ability to pop, and this science fair idea involves trying to pop popcorn that is especially wet or dry. To do this experiment, the student should first count out eight batches of regular popcorn kernels, each containing 100 kernels. Two batches should be soaked in water overnight, two more batches should be soaked in water for only 20 minutes, two batches should be dried in the oven at 120 degrees Celsius for two hours, and the last two batches should be saved as the control group of regular popcorn. When each batch of popcorn is popped in a hot-air popper, the student should record how long it took the popcorn to pop and how many kernels were left unpopped.
One more category of popcorn-related science fair experiments looks at the role of temperature in popping popcorn. To vary the temperature of popcorn, some bags of microwave popcorn should be frozen, others refrigerated, others left at room temperature and the last heated in an oven at 50 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. The student puts each bag in the microwave for the same amount of time and then opens the bags to record what per cent of kernels popped. Another way to study temperature is to pop kernels on the stove at different heat levels. A chosen number of kernels are placed in a pan over a low flame, medium flame and a high flame, with the student recording how long it took the popcorn kernels to pop.