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You also should be able to get an idea of specific years in which the weight of the penny was changed.
So why are we suggesting this topic for a science fair project?
The exercise they will go through of predicting and successively counting the number of remaining "mark-side up" candies should help them understand that rates of decay of unstable nuclei can be measured; that the exact time that a certain nucleus will decay cannot be predicted; and that it takes a very large number of nuclei to find the rate of decay.
Grade Level: 5-12 grade Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) 3-5ETS1-2, MS-ESS1-4, HS-ESS1-6 Time for Teacher Preparation 40-60 minutes – To gather materials Activity Time: 40-60 minutes (1 Class Period) Materials: Objectives Students try to model radioactive decay by using the scientific thought process of creating a hypothesis, then testing it through inference.
The only way to establish whether the chemical composition of the different groups of pennies is the same or different is to determine the mass (weight) of each group. A penny containing more of a certain metal than another penny will have a different mass, because its density is different.
If the average mass of your control group (those pennies minted before 1970) is different from that of any of the variable groups, you'll know that the pennies are not made of the same amounts of the same materials.
Now that you've identified the problem you'll be attempting to solve, it's time to consider the purpose of this project.
The point of this project is to determine, using the scientific method, whether pennies made before 1970 (those will be your control group) are heavier or lighter than those made in each decade after that date (the groups of pennies from each decade since the 1970s will be your variable groups).
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