 Super speedy popping popcorn! with Mr Boultwood, for our future physicists. Followed by,
Is it Safe to Swim in that Pool? with Miss Cooil, for the budding analytical chemists. Over 40 year 8 students undertook the challenges, to calculate the speed of popcorn, and determine the unknown molarity of an acid.

The Popcorn Challenge:
To calculate the speed of popcorn kernels as they pop.
Firstly the students discussed types of energy, then decided which forms would be involved in their experiment, what they would need to measure and how they would work out the speed. The practical was to weigh individual kernels, then heat the popcorn, and measure the height the kernels ‘jumped’.

It was certainly fun, corn popping all around the lab, taking some of us by surprise, all with the lovely smell of popcorn! Next came the hard work…the speed calculations, using:

Gravitational potential energy=mass x height x gravitational field strength

So what is the speed of popcorn? The Molarity Challenge:

To work like an analytical chemist, and determine the molarity of an unknown acid which had been spilt in a swimming pool. The students learnt to carefully and correctly use titration equipment; pipettes, fillers and burettes. To understand using phenol phthalein indicator to find an end point, then carry out a titration using a 1 M base (NaOH), in order to calculate the molarity of the unknown acid (HCl).

Next came the mathematical part of the challenge, to calculate the unknown molar solution, using the triangle…

Answer: The acid was a 0.8 M solution, lots of the students were spot on or very close!

Both master classes were exciting, dynamic, fun and full of learning, with new equipment and techniques. The students then had to perform trials, collect results, make mistakes, understand and learn from their errors, before moving on to confidently formulate answers from their calculations. Well done to you all who took part!