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Popcorn Projects – YUM!

Posted by on January 31, 2012

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Advantages: Quick, relatively cheap, relatively easy, and you can bribe kids with eating the popcorn AFTER the project is done.

Disadvantages: Most lack creativity. The best option is always to design your own, but here are a few ideas to inspire you.

I popped this bowl just for this blog - but it's gone now, my kids ate it - after they cleaned their rooms!

Let’s start with variables – what are the “things” we can change when it comes to popping popcorn?
• Brand Name vs. Generic
• Brand Names (ranked by price per bag)
• Type/Flavor
• Butter Content
• How they are popped: microwave, stovetop, or air popper
• Surface they are popped on
• Size of bag/amount of kernels
• Age of kernels
• Storage temperature for kernels
• Storage conditions (e.g. airtight vs. open air)
• Time for popping

Now let’s think about what we can measure as a QUANTITATIVE outcome (i.e. it has to result in a number):
• Total number of kernels popped/un-popped
• Percentage of kernels that popped (or not)
• Volume of popcorn produced
• Weight of popcorn produced
• Maximum size of individual popped corn
• Average size of popped corn

Once you have identified potential variables – start putting them together for interesting questions. Warning — as tempting as it is – stay away from using “taste” because it is a qualitative and subjective variable.

Here are some examples:

Question: How does the storage temperature affect percentage of kernels that pop?
Question: Do expensive brands yield more popcorn?
Question: Does butter content affect average size of popped corn?

Remember you must, must, must replicate, replicate, replicate! You will need to repeat whatever you do at least 3 times, but that’s no problem – it just means more popcorn to eat later.

150 Responses to Popcorn Projects – YUM!

  1. shayla

    i am doing my science fair project on does different brands of popcorn leave different amount of kernnels behind, and i need some help with the research and the in 8th grade.can u help??

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Research the history of popcorn and find out how companies ensure good popping success. Also look into which popcorn company started the craze and who is now the leading popcorn seller.

      Your experiment needs replication (3 bags from each brand) and a control (based on your hypothesis). In general – what do you think results in the differences between companies? Could it be price? Or butter content? Or age of kernels? The control will be the brand with the LEAST of whatever you think makes a difference because you will compare all the other brands to that one. For example, as price increases, does the number of unpopped kernels decrease?

      • sheryl Lucas

        I am doing this same project but with my 5th grader. Can you help me in the research part which I can get so my daughter can explain at her own level.

        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          “Research” for a popcorn project is just looking up stuff about popcorn: history of its development, economics of sales, physics behind how a kernel pops, etc.

      • Olivia

        I am doing a project on the difference between how much popcorn is left unpopped between three different brands. I do not know what my control group would be, can you help me with this? Thanks.

        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          You need to decide how to “rank” your brands, generally I would recommend price. Then the “control” is the lowest price, because you are evaluating if an increase in price (or brand recognition or brand popularity or whatever) results in less unpopped popcorn.

    • Zara

      Im in the 5th grade and want to see if a popcorn project is age appropriate?

  2. hcg

    Good reading. Thank you for doing such a good job. I’ll check again to find out more and recommend my people about your website

  3. KD

    I am doing my science fair project on how does the storage temperature affect percentage of kernals that pop? I have done something similar in the past but I did not have to do research on it. Can you help me with ideas on research? I looked at the brand of popcorn I used website and got their storage information but I have to have 3-5. I am in the 6th grade can you help me too???

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      If you can’t find 3 to 5 storage temperatures for different brands, then use the one you have and vary the storage temperatures systematically – for example plus and minus 5 degrees and also plus and minus 10 degrees. That would give you 5 temperatures centered around the storage temperature you did find.

  4. JENNI

    How many packages of popcorn are needed in the entire experiment?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      It depends on what you decide to do, but a minimum of 6 (3 for the control and 3 for whatever change you select). For proper replication, you will need 3 bags per level of the change (e.g. if you evaluate low, medium, high temperatures then you will need 9 bags, 3 each.

    • Sharyl

      If we are doing experiment with which brands are better and have to do ten trials for each experimental group how many bags of popcorn do I need.

  5. Christopher

    We are doing the experiment on which yields more popped kernels: plain or buttered popcorn. Should we compare one brand to the same brand several times or should we compare different plain brands to different buttered brands? We want to keep it simple (6th grade). How would we keep track of the unpopped kernels: graph, tally marks? We are new to all of this! Thanks for your help!

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Replication can be done in more than one way. In the purest sense, it would be 3 bags of plain from Brand X vs. 3 bags of buttered from Brand X, but it would be more interesting if you did 1 bag of plain from Brand X vs. 1 bag of buttered from Brand X and then repeat that for 2 more brands. What you DON’T want to do is 3 bags of plain vs. 3 bags of buttered from 6 different brands because the measured differences could be due to brand and not the buttering.

      For each bag, count the number of popped and the number of un-popped so that you have a total number of kernels (popped + un-popped). You can then calculate the percentage of popped kernels (number of popped divided by total number of kernels times 100 to get a percentage; for example: from Brand X: plain = 78% popped vs. buttered = 50% popped – I made those numbers up!). You could then make a bar graph to compare plain vs. buttered for each brand and/or all plain vs. all buttered to show variation between brands. Good Luck – once you have the data, if you still have questions – just post them here!

      • Angela

        I am doing the same project but i also included cost do the more expensive butter pop more then the plain generic. Can this still be done the same way?

        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          yes – but cost is a continuous quantitative variable, so you can make a LINE graph with cost (in actual values) on the x-axis and your measure of production on the y-axis. This can only be done with this type of variable. So if you are doing: cheapest, medium, most expensive it has to be a BAR graph; but if you are doing $2.99, $3.50, and $4.25 (for example) you could choose to do either a bar or a line graph

  6. cindy

    Hi, my 5th grade child decided to do her science project on how does storage temperature affect popcorn popping? So we used the same brand of popcorn, then stored popcorn bags in three different temperature locations freezer, countertop, and frig we stored them for 24 hours. Then we popped each bag in the microwave for two minutes. We are confused about different variables constant, control, Independent, and Dependent? And we are trying to measure the best place to store popcorn? By counting the unpopped kernels in each bag? HELP!

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      The experimental design is fine – hopefully you had 3 bags stored in the freezer, 3 in the fridge and 3 on the counter – if not, you could repeat the whole thing 2 more times.

      The independent variable is what you chose to manipulate: storage temperature
      The dependent variable is what you decide to measure: “popcorn popping”
      The constants are things you kept the same: brand, popping time, microwave power, etc.

      The control depends on how you worded the question and hypothesis. You probably thought:

      As temperature decreases, the percentage of kernels popping decreases/increases

      So the control is the room temperature bags and you compare those results to when you change the temperature by decreasing the temperature in the fridge (colder) and then in the freezer (coldest).

      You can measure the effectiveness of popping in several ways: number of kernels popped, number of kernels that did not pop, percentage of popped (# popped divided by total number of kernels), percentage unpopped, etc.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Demeshia

    Hello, I’m doing a science experiment and I wanted to know do you think this is a good hypothesis. If three different storage locations temperatures are used ,The three listed, then the popcorn will have more or less unpopped kernels.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Generally, the hypothesis is the predicted answer to your question.

      If your question is:

      How does storage location temperature affect percentage of popped kernels?

      Then your hypothesis needs to be something like:

      As the temperature of storage (increases or decreases – pick one), the percentage of popped kernels will (increase or decrease or stay the same – pick one)

  8. jackie

    My son wants to do an experiment on what oil makes popcorn pop faster? How would he research? Could you help us please?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Great idea – you could use a variety of oils (your independent variable) to see if there is a difference in how fast the popcorn pops (dependent variable = time for 100 kernels to pop) and/or how efficient the popping is (dependent variable = percentage of kernels that pop) and/or any other dependent characteristic that you can measure.

      As far as research goes, have him look into all the different types of oil people use in cooking. What makes vegetable oil different from olive oil? canola oil? peanut oil? etc. Are there any advantages to using one over the other? (Note this will help with the hypothesis).

      Good Luck!

  9. Tyson

    We are testing 4 brands of popcorn to see which one has the least amount of unpopped popcorn. We have tested each 3 times. Do you take an average of the 3 tests to come up with that brands unpopped kernels. Thank you.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Yes – the average of the three trials for each of the four brands will allow you to compare results and make a conclusion regarding which brand was “best”. However, I would make at least 2 bar graphs – one showing all three results for each of 4 brands and then a summary graph showing the average. This will ensure that judges/teachers will see that you properly replicated the experiment (i.e. they will see the three bars for each brand). Sometimes, when students only present the average – it appears that they only did it one time.

  10. Abigail

    Hi I am doing a science project that uses popcorn
    Question: what method of popping popcorn pops more kernels

    In this case what would my control be?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      That depends on what your question is, your hypothesis is and what methods you are using. Post them here and I’ll walk you through it.

      The general idea is that the control, controls for the independent variable, so – for example, if you thought the MOST expensive method of popping should produce the most popped kernels, then the LEAST expensive method is your control because you will compare the results of the more expensive methods to the least expensive method.

      Your question would be along the lines of: Do more expensive methods produce more kernels and your hypothesis would be something like: As the expense of the popping method increases (independent variable), the amount of popped corn increases (dependent variable).

      Likewise you could be thinking that the more recent methods should pop more (control: oldest method) or the methods that use the most energy should pop more (control: method that uses the least energy).

      Keep in mind that the control is what you will compare all the other results to! – Good Luck!

  11. Sara

    My son is doing a project on how the storage temp effects popcorn popping. My question is since we are doing it on the stove should we use a set time for each sample?

  12. Abigail

    So does this increase on how many variables because I can only have 1?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      No – as long as you pick ONE. So decide why you think different popping methods might lead to different results and formulate a question

  13. Abigail

    Thank you!
    I’ll try to figure out this whole mess of mine with your advice

  14. Abigail

    Thank you!
    I’ll try to figure out this whole mess of mine with your advice 😀

  15. Abigail
  16. michelle

    hi im a 7th grader and my project tittle is (what makes popcorn pop?) I wanted to know if this is a good projet
    *what are the vaiables and control of this project
    *what type of category is this project

    plez answer back ASAP PLEASE its important <3 🙂

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      No – not really – because what you want to ask is how one thing affects another thing. So instead of a “what” question, look for a “how does” type of question. So, first – find out what makes popcorn pop (google it) and then think about what variables would affect that process. Then, ask how does … (insert one variable) affect the … rate of popping, or percentage of popped kernels, or something you can actually measure.

      Good Luck

  17. michelle

    hey my teacher said it was ok but with a a face so-so. so what if I named my project
    ( how does popcorn pop?)

  18. Cherishrichardson

    I love this project it got me an a+

  19. Cheri

    We are doing a science project on Does temperature impact how kernels pop? We are not understanding what the control would be this project. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      The control would be room temperature kernels because that is the “regular” or “normal” condition. Your experiment is to change the temperature and see if that change in temperature affects popping compared to room temperature. Good Luck!

    • Mackenzie

      It was awesome I got an A+ thanks a lot

  20. Cheri

    Thank you for providing the resources to complete this science project. It is much appreciated! Thanks!

  21. April

    My son is in the fifth grade and he is doing a project based on where should you store your popcorn. We are trying to get an idea on the direction for the hypothesis?

  22. Katelyn R.

    i need help with my science fair project i’m in 6th grade and i’m doing my project on popcorn i really need help with the whole project and i don’t know what i am doing because this is my first project i have ever done in my whole entire life because i use to go to a private school and we did not learn a thing at all but all we did was play all day i would be glad for your help. THANK YOU!

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Start with “Getting Started” and look at the basic designs of the popcorn projects I have with this post. PICK ONE thing to test and one thing to measure for a simple project.

  23. Tamiya

    hi my name is Tamiya and I go to a broadview Middle School of NC and I in a time crunch I have until Friday This Friday to Finnish and I’m not sure of to do this one but not only that I have little time because I have practice until 6:00 so……. Do you have any ideas if so please mail me or reply

  24. Kimberly

    I have a question my daughter is in 5th grade and we are doing her background research paper and at a loss at how to help her start. her topic is..Which brand of popcorn make the largest yield? Can you please help us help her

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      I would maybe start by learning about the popcorn industry
      –How much do Americans spend on popcorn?
      –Where is the corn for the popcorn grown?
      –What are the costs associated with making popcorn?
      –Which brands are the most popular by sales?
      –Which brands are the most expensive?
      It sounds like the purpose of her project will be to determine which is the best popcorn for the money spent (???), so I would research what goes into the costs of production, distribution, marketing, etc. and determine if you spend more, do you get more?

  25. tonesha

    I am doing how storage temperature affects the percentage of popcorn unpopped. we have to do a research paper how would we go about doing that?

  26. Arianne

    My daughter is doing a science project similar to Abigail’s. We decided to compare which method of making popcorn is the most efficient. We decided to compare the following methods: microwave, stove top and hot air popper. We will measure efficiency based on the most number of kernals popped. We microwaved a bag of popcorn and counted the popped and unpopped kernals. We will use the same total number of kernals for our other variables. I am confused on what our control will be or if we need one for this experiment?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      This is a tricky one because of the way you have asked the question. Technically each method (e.g. microwave) functions as the control for the other two methods (e.g. stove and air) because what you are asking when you ask “which method is most efficient” is really “are these other two methods any better than this one method” – for each of the 3 methods.

      So… unfortunately… it might look like you have no control and a judge that is less experienced might score her lower because they don’t see it correctly (sorry – it happens, just like inexperienced umpires).

      Therefore, I recommend you declare the microwave method as the control – because it is probably the most common and it is the one that determined how many kernels you would use in the other two trials. You can keep your question the same, but clearly state the way you are going to address the question is to do the microwave method first, determine the kernel #, then test the other two methods and compare the results to the microwave results.

      Hope that helps!

  27. Arianne

    Also, do we need to do each method 3x then come up with an over al average per method?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Replication is an important part of any experiment and one that is often overlooked in science fair projects. Think about what you want to know and make sure the replication targets that component. Typically you need to have 3 replicates for the variable you are varying. Sometimes that requires repeating the entire method 3 times, but sometimes you just need 3 “items” to test – depends on the question being answered. Utlimately you want an average for the results (not the method steps), but make sure you show all three trials and the average – otherwise you run the risk of the judge thinking you only did one trial.

  28. adrian

    My son is doing a science project on which popcorn brand pops the least amount of unpopped kernels but i have no idea what is the application. Could you please help?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      One application is saving money – because if you knew which brand yielded the least popcorn, you would probably pick a different brand.

  29. rocio

    Does more expensive brand of popcorn pops the most kernels

  30. Dominic Cacciotti

    I am doing a science experiment as well on which microwave popcorn pops best? Does each brand of popcorn have to be the same amount in oz.? Or would I be able to just to use the percentage of total kernels vs, the unpopped kernels? Do you think it would be more valid to do the experiment using brands with the exact same amount? The varying brands sell varying sizes? Thoughts?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      In a perfect situation – if you can find them – it would be best to use different brands with the same starting amount (e.g. 3.5 oz bags) – but it is OK if you can’t find that because once you calculate the percentage, you are comparing apples to apples and, in reality, the consumer has to choose between brands that sell bags in different amounts.

      If you end up using brands with different starting amounts, keep track of that aspect and determine if the bigger/smaller starting values align with the more/less percentages popped.

  31. Omari

    Hello my name is Omari and I am in the 6th grade. This is my second science fair project and my mother did most of the work on my first one. I have to do this project all on my own and your help will be greatly appreciated. The name of my project will be The Less Kernels the Better. My question is which method of making popcorn will leave the least amount of kernels? I will be using microwave, stovetop, and hot air pop. My hypothesis is If I do the microwave popcorn, then it will have less kernels. I would like your help on what my constant will be and what kind of research I should look up. Do you think my title fit my research?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      “Constants” are any of the variables that don’t really care about as far as the question goes, so you will keep them “constant” while you change the one you are interested in (e.g. cooking method).

      You will need to keep the number of kernels constant, so do the microwave first and count the total number of popped and unpopped (add those together to get the number of kernels you will use under the other 2 methods of making popcorn).

      For research, you could learn about the history of pop corn, the economics of the pop corn industry, etc.

  32. Omari

    Thank you so much.

  33. Carolyn

    We are working on a science project and wondering if you soak the kernels in a liquid before popping, will that add flavor to the air popped popcorn? if so any suggestions for the liquids to be used?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      If you are trying to impart a sour taste…. I would soak in vinegar (think salt and vinegar)

      If you are trying to impart a sweet taste…. I would soak in fruit juice or maybe just sugary water

      Think of liquids that have a strong taste or smell: coffee, lemon aid, fruit punch, tea, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, peanut oil

      • Carolyn

        Thank you informaiton–we used pickle juice, fruit punch, lemon aid, apple juice had some luck with some but not all-fun project.

  34. Gabriela

    Im in third grade and i am having trouble doing my science project.the project is witch type of popcorn will leave the fewest un popped kernels and im having trouble with hypothisis and the research.Can you please help me.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      The hypothesis is an educated guess as to what you think will happen. So think about which types of popcorn you are testing and write down which one you think will leave the fewest un-popped and why. The research should include information on the different types of popcorn, maybe the economics of the popcorn industry, etc. The research should support the importance of the question you are addressing.

  35. Louise

    Hi. My son is finding out which brand has the least un popped kernels. We have 5 brands and are doing 3 bags per brand. How important is it to keep the time spent in the microwave the same? The first brand we popped burnt if left in longer than 1 min 45 sec. The second brand burnt at 1 min 45 sec. The 3rd brand had barely started popping at the same time which left a LOT of unpopped kernels! Should the time be kept the same for each brand or just stop popping at the recommended so many seconds per pop? Also, in order to get an accurate count of kernels, I have been opening the bags and he has been counting the kernels to start with, then I tape the bags back up and microwave. Is that ok?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Ideally, the time would be the same for each, but as you found out – that won’t work. So I recommend either popping for the length of time recommended on the bag/box (so making each according to instructions) OR (if that info not available) then yes, pick a standard time that you will stop all bags at (like you said above, as soon as the popping to drops to less than # per # (e.g. 3 pops per 5 seconds – or similar – whatever the average person making popcorn might do) as long as you do it the same for each, then that variable is normalized (i.e. taken care of).

      I recommend leaving the bags intact before popping. He should count the total number of popped and unpopped and then he can divided the number of unpopped by that total (sum) OR if he as been opening them… are then consistent? He could use that data to get an estimate of the number that should be in each bag and then divide the number of unpopped by that number. Opening the bags first will tamper with the heat dynamics in the bag and potentially bias the results because he won’t be able to ensure the bags are taped back together exactly the same for each

      Good Luck!

      • Louise

        The first bag of brand 1 we counted the popped ones and came up with 344, didn’t count before. The second and third we counted before popping, they had 410 kernels and 408 kernels. Brand 2 (that burnt) all were counted first. They had 269, 277, and 267 before popping. Brand 3 counted before had 371, and 365. Haven’t tested any more yet.

        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          Wow – I am surprised they are that inconsistent given they are probably filled automatically!

          So, I would still recommend counting everything after popping. Then he will be able to present the data in many ways: % popped and % unpopped and also total # of kernels. If you have prices for each brand you could also figure out your best overall value.

  36. iwchan

    Hello, we are doing a science fair project. our initial plan is to find out which popping method (microwave, stove top, air popper) gets the most popcorn. we will use 1 brand. keep the total kernels constant and then we will count popped kernel vs unpopped kernel. repeat 3x each method. same temp setting, same time. How do we need to control the oil for stove top and popper? Or if we keep it the same for that method in the 3x, it would be ok?

    Also, if we want to take it one step further. can we add to find out the optimal time for popping popcorn in each method? in this case, we would be increasing time intervals (10sec each) and count popped vs unpopped? are we making this too complicated?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      You should be making the popcorn according to the recommended directions for each method since that is what an average person would do when making the popcorn. You have a good design – yes, make sure that the oil is the same amount/type for each trial.

      Once you find the “best” method (microwave, stove top or air popper) then you could do a “Part II” and optimize the time, for that method. 10 seconds will probably work for microwaving, but you may need 30 seconds or more for the other 2 methods.

      Good Luck

  37. Aldalene

    Can you change the flavor of popcorn before it’s popped by dehydrating the kernels, and then soaking them in various liquids?
    Please advise how to go about this project?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      I would not necessarily advise this project because you will not have a quantitative dependent variable (i.e. a number). There is no way to measure “flavor” other than qualitatively (adjectives) – so you will not have data and will not be able to make a graph.

      Depending on the grade level, it might be a fun/nice demonstration. You might be able to have the student dehydrate/rehydrate the kernels and have other friends “guess” the flavor it is supposed to be.

  38. soul chapman

    i have a project due monday and i have no idea of what to do please help

  39. Becaye Traore

    How does the storage tempature effect percentage of kernels that popped

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Good question. Now decide if warmer or cooler kernels will pop more (hypothesis); vary your storage temperatures and measure percentage popped (experiment). Good Luck

  40. Ja

    Who are you

  41. STEVEN


  42. Tessa

    I have a science fair project due sometime in January but we were suppose to originally have a project idea along with an outline of our question and a 1-3 page paper due last Monday. I didn’t do it and I had to change my project anyways but I have to turn in a different outline and essay by Sunday and I hate doing projects that take forever… do you think I could do this with simple questions that will make the project easy for me? if so then what and how?

  43. Brenda

    My daughter has decided to do her science project on… Which popcorn brand pops best and leaves the least amount of kernals behind? She’s having a though time getting started. How many brands do you think she should try? Also, why should she test each brand at least three times? What will she need to change when testing the same brand each time? Thank you.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Every experiment should be repeated a minimum of three times so that you have more confidence in the results (so while testing the same brand she isn’t changing anything). For example, if you only do something once, how do you really know the outcome was what it was supposed to be and not based on a mistake? If you do something twice and you get two different responses, how do you know which one is more accurate? If you do something three or more times, and all three are similar then you have a higher level of confidence in the results. If two are similar and one is way different, something probably went “wrong” with that different one. If all three are very different, then you know you need a much higher level of replication to any confidence whatsoever.

      I would recommend three brands with different prices: maybe a generic, a mid-level and the most expensive one sold at the store (you need three bags of each, make sure they are all the same “size” bags). She is changing the brand (here related to price). She is measuring the least amount of kernels left un-popped. Or she can do three “top” selections of three different brands, or three generics from three different stores.

  44. Kailey

    Making sure we are going in the right direction:

    Title: Which brand of microwave popcorn yields the most popcorn?

    3 brands, 3 trials of each. Total popcorn divided by unpopped kernels. Get %ages and graph the results.
    Hypothesis would be based on research of what’s the most popular brand.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Yes – but make sure you start with bags of the same size (e.g. 3.3 oz bags – information should be on the popcorn box) and similar types (don’t compare an unbuttered to a buttered or you will introduce a second variable);

      Also, if you are calculating the highest yield… then you will want to divided the number of unpopped by the total (unpopped plus popped) times 100 (that will give you the % unpopped – and the “lowest” number would then be “best”).

      Hypothesis needs to be stated before the experiment. The three brands can be ranked for any logical reason – such as popularity or by price.

  45. sheryl Lucas

    Hi, I have a 5th grade daughter who has a science fair project. she wants to do it which brand has the most unpopped kernels. I know to have 3 trials of each brand , which she is doing a generic, mid brand , and a popular brand. How do we show data and where can I go to get research?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      You will be able to make a bar graph with the generic/mid/popular brands on the x-axis and whatever you measure (looks like number or percentages of unpopped kernels) on the y-axis.

      For research google popcorn, learn about its history, its economics, etc.

  46. Angel

    What category would a popcorn project fit under in the science fair?

  47. aljwaher

    what is the conclusion?

  48. Jasmine

    Hi we’re doing a project in popcorn also he’s in the fourth grade and we wanna do taare he choose three different brands im so lost on wat to do next. Are we suppose to find out which one has the most butter all kernels pop price etc. and his hypothesis should be (I think the blank brand will pop better because of the research he found )

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Pick one characteristic (i.e. trait) about the popcorn brands (e.g. price, amount of butter, brand popularity, etc.) and rank them 1, 2, and 3 BEFORE you do the experiment.

      Decide what you will measure (e.g. number of popped, number of unpopped, percentage of popped, etc.)

      Put trait on x-axis; measurements on y-axis


  49. Andrea

    I am in high school and I am wondering how you could turn this into a project that would be a little more complex for my grade level.

  50. M. Rouse

    Is the price of popcorn related to the percentage of kernels that pop? What is the experimental variable, response variable, and hypothesis? I am so new at this! Thank you!

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Experimental variable = what you change, so price of popcorn
      Response variable = what you measure, so percent age of kernels that pop

      You have to decide on ONE of these hypotheses:

      If the price increases, the percentage of kernels that pop increases;
      If the price increases, the percentage of kernels that pop decreases;
      If the price increases, there will be no effect on the percentage of kernels that pop

      There is no right or wrong; just pick one and explain why you think that is going to happen

  51. Angela

    Im trying to help my daughter i have with her project i have 3 bags of plain popcorn Brand X, Brand Y, Brand Z then i have 3 bags of butter Brand X, Brand Y, Brand Z. that would be 18 bags of popcorn correct? I choose generic mid level and expensive. Her question was
    Do more expensive brand produce more popcorn?
    My question do we have to much going on. How would I do her graph? We have to accout for all the data do i have to have a control, variable etc.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Looks like you will have a few things to compare.

      Assuming X was cheap, Y was midlevel and Z was expensive; then you will be able to make a bar graph with “Cost” on the x-axis (generic; midlevel; expensive OR brand X, brand Y, and brand Z) and however you plan to measure “produce more popcorn” (i.e. number of popped, percentage of popped, etc.) on the y-axis. For each of the three brands you will have one bar for buttered and one bar for plain side by side. Each bar will represent the average of the three bags for that brand and butter status.

      You will be able to assess: Do buttered produce more than plain for one brand? for all brands? Does cost affect amount produced?

      • Angela

        What would be the control, independent, dependent and constant?

        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          Independent is what you change (here, brand/price and butter: yes/no)
          Dependent is what you measure (here, amount produced)
          constants are things you don’t care about but need to keep consistent between trials, things like temperature, the microwave, time popped, etc.

          the control depends on the question/hypothesis:

          If you are asking do more expensive brands yield more popcorn, then the control is the cheapest because you will compare your independent variable to that (so as price increases, does the amount also increase?)

          If you are asking does butter yield more popcorn then the plain is the control

  52. breian

    hi im doing a project on which popcorn brand pops best and I cant decide whats my control

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      It depends on how you phrase the question… Generally, the generic option or the cheapest option will be the control and you’ll be asking if the brand name or the more expensive or the more popular or whatever pops “best” – however you have defined that. So the control is the one you expected to pop worst.

  53. Jxhsh

    What is the application for this project

  54. Abigail M.

    Ok I’m doing a science fair project about “How does the cost of popcorn affect how many kernels are popped?” And I’m wondering what I’m I supposed to do for research? So can you help me?

  55. Kim B

    Hello! First of all I love your website. It gives great advise for the kiddos preparing for their science project and for the parents that have not been in school for over 30 years! My son is doing a science project on various types of cooking oils (vegetable, olive, canola, and corn) used to determine what oil will pop the most kernals. I am not sure how to get him started. In addition, is it okay to use four different oils as the variables. What should be our constants? I am assuming the independent variable will be the variety of oils, the dependent variable will be the number of popped kernals What would be the control? In addition, I am not sure what the hypothesis would be? Any suggestion or advise would be greatly appreciated!

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Yes – ultimately you will make a bar graph with the type of oil on the x-axis and the number (or percentage) of kernels on the y-axis;

      The control depends on the question. It can be the least expensive if you think more expensive oils should result in more popped kernels; or it can be the most common oil is the best and all others would be expected to be inferior.

      The hypothesis is also based on how/why you picked the 4 oils….

      It could be: If the cost of the oil increases, then the number (or percentage) of popped kernels will increase (control is cheapest oil used)

      OR: If a less common oil is used, then the number of popped kernels will decrease (control is most common oil used)

      • KIM B

        Thank You for your reply, but I thought the hypothesis would be more something like, “‘If corn oil is used to pop the popcorn kernals, then the least amount of un-popped kernals will remain because it has a higher percentage of fats, which makes more kernals pop.” or do you think I should have a different approach?

        In addition, I thought the controls were the parts of the experiment that are kept the same, such as amount of oil, un-cooked kernals, time, temperature, etc.

        Maybe, I am overthinking this a bit and making it more difficult than it should. I want my son to understand how to do the experiment and not help him too much at the same time.


        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          That hypothesis is fine.

          The control is the trial under which the experiment is run WITHOUT the variable of interest; then the experimental data are all the trials under which a change has been made.

          So CORN OIL becomes the control (i.e. the number of unpopped kernels when using corn oil). Then, he will change that variable and determine the number of unpopped when using the other oils. Rank the oils according to their fat percentage. If indeed it is the oil’s fat percentage that affects percent popping, then there should be a relationship.

          In which case the hypothesis could be: If the percentage of fat in oil is decreased, then the number of popped kernels will also decrease.

          The “controlled variables” (different from “control”) are the variables you do not change such as amount of oil etc.

      • KIM B

        Thank You for your suggestions and reply, but I think I am a bit confused on the hypothesis. My son initially put, “If corn oil is used to pop the popcorn kernals, then the least amount of un-popped kernels will remain because it has a higher percentage of fat, which makes more kernals pop.” Should I rethink this hypothesis? This is his first project and I don’t remember ever doing a science project. I may be overthinking it.

  56. Riley

    I am comparing the three cooking methods to determine which leaves least amount of unpopped kernels. My hypothesis is the microwave will leave least amount of uncooked kernels. I’m having issues of what my constants are besides using same brand and amount of kernels. My science teacher suggested temperature as a constant but How would I find the temperature of stovetop and air popped. The only thing the microwave said was that it was 1000 watts. Is that even a constant if all three methods are different temperatures?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Sounds like you have correctly identified your constants: brand and number of kernels, maybe also type of pop corn? (buttered, not, etc.)

      Your independent variable is “cooking method” and under that there are multiple differences, such as time, temperature, type of energy, etc. But they are all lumped into “cooking method”. You will be able to answer if microwaving is better/worse than stovetop in general. You will not be able to conclude it is better because of any one of those differences. For example you would not be able to conclude it was the cooking time or the cooking temperature since they will both vary.

  57. Frances Ambrozy

    My son is 5th grade science project is Does the amount of salt affect the amount of kernals that are popped ?

  58. Rachel

    I am planning on doing a science project on How does moisture level of unpopped kernels affect the size of popcorn. What kind of research can I do? I’m in 8th grade and need 5 sources!

  59. Jeannie Bowles

    My son is in 6th grade doing a project that looks at if the length of time popcorn cooks, i.e. 1:30; 1:45, etc impacts the amount of popcorn that pops vs doesn’t pop. This is for a science fair project. I am trying to help him but having some difficulty wrapping my head around the design of the project that will have enough information in the end to generate a 4 page report, etc. Any suggestions or guidance please. Im desperate.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      4 pages is long for this project idea, but not impossible.

      He could look up the economics of the popcorn industry and write a longer “back ground” section as to why it is important to understand the best way to maximize the number of popped kernels.

      If willing, he could repeat with generic pop corn vs. a brand name and see if there is a difference between them for the different lengths of time.

  60. Melinda Hamm

    My son is doing a science projects on name brand vs generic microwave popcorn. The question he is asking is will the name brand, more expensive brand yield less unpopped kernels. He will be comparing pop secret (name brand) vs a store brand (generic brand). They both are buttered flavor and he will be popping 3 bags of each for the same amount of time, then he will find an average for each and compare to see if his hypothesis was correct. The question I have is can He compare one name brand and one generic (of course popping three bags of each to get an average for each for the amount of unpopped kernels). Some people are telling us that we need to have at least 3 test subjects, But his question was will the name brand microwave popcorn yield less unpopped kernels than a cheaper store brand/generic microwave popcorn so why does he need more than 1 for each ?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Your experiment is designed correctly. What the “some people” might be referring to is the need to have three replicates (not 3 test subjects), which you have.

  61. Pandini

    We are doing a progect for the science far and we need help finding backrund info

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Start with Google – get basic information about your project (popcorn?) You could learn about the history, the economics, fun facts, etc.

  62. savannah

    Please I really need help my dad keeps trying to take control.I really help.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Help with what? Not much I can do from here…

      • LJ

        Fifth grader has completed science project comparing volumes in liters of popped corn (has a quite large movie style popcorn machine). His hypothesis states that he expected Orville Redenbacher’s to have the most volume since his research showed that it was so popular. In his case, Orville was also the lowest in price per ounce. He would like to have a control group, but doesn’t know what he could use. Is there a control group, and if so why ? There are 10 trials times 4 brands = lots of popcorn!!

        • Dr. Maille Lyons

          If the hypothesis is that Orville would have the highest volume because it was the most popular; then the control group is the least popular brand used because that is the group you would compare your experimental to, i.e., as popularity increases, the amount of popcorn should also increase. If it turns out that Orville does not have the highest volume, then the data suggest some other variable could be the reason for its popularity (e.g. cost or taste).

          • LJ

            Thanks…he also used Pop Secret, Jolly Time, and arrowhead mills. We have a graph from “statistics portal” that shows OR as consumed by 67.58 Americans, PS by 49.37, and JT by 15.7. But no figure for AM. So I guess he can just use Jolly Time?
            Thanks so much!

          • LJ

            OR did have largest volume…

  63. bob G


  64. bob G

    is there results???

  65. anthony

    i am doing a project with the question does the power of a microwave affect the popcorn what would be a good hypothesis.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      You really only have three choices:

      As the power of the microwave increases, the (whatever you are going to measure as the effect on the popcorn) will:

      a. increase
      b. decrease
      c. stay the same

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