How strong is a conker?

We finally managed to find a few conkers last weekend, so set about experimenting with making them stronger. A quick bit of research told me that standard methods of strengthening a conker are soaking in vinegar and baking.

 

conkers

 

We used to opportunity to introduce thinking about experimental design. First we discussed which conditions we should test.

  • 1 conker untreated – this is our control, and should show us what happens without any other condition in place.
  • 1 conker soaked for 2 minutes in vinegar
  • 1 conker baked in the oven for 2 minutes
  • 1 conker soaked for 2 minutes in vinegar and baked in the oven at 200 degrees for a further 2 minutes
  • 1 conker soaked for 5 minutes in vinegar and baked in the oven at 200 degrees for a further 5 minutes
  • 1 conker soaked for 5 minutes in vinegar
  • 1 conker baked in the oven for 5 minutes

Can you think of anything else we could try?

Method

Observe the conkers, and select 7 which are similar in size.

Carefully make a hole through the centre of each, ask an adult to help. Try to avoid any splitting around the hole as this could make the conker weaker.

Treat for each condition as above, ask an adult to help.

Initially we did try to play a traditional conker game, but it was very hard to make the conkers break, so we resorted to swinging them against a wall and counting the number of swings taken to make the conker break.

 

conkers

Variables

Variables are things which might affect the experiment, in this activity the variables are:

  • Size of the conker – we did try to select similar size conkers but there was some variation.
  • Age of the conker – some were on the ground when we found them and some still inside their protective covering.
  • Force at which the conker is swung.

Results

Our weakest conker was the one soaked in vinegar for 2 minutes and strongest the one soaked in vinegar and baked for 5 minutes. I would’ve expected the control to have been the weakest as it hadn’t been hardened at all, but this anomoly could be down to one of the variables above.

Do let us know how your results turn out if you try it at home.

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