The fictional element, nailonite, is central to this inexpensive laboratory activity. Other than a balance, the only material required for this activity is a sample of 10-25 total nails of three different sizes for each lab group. Each nail in the sample represents one of the three isotopes of the element. This simulation allows students to actually measure the mass of each of the three isotopes, and, after calculating the relative abundance of the isotopes in the sample, calculate the average atomic mass of nailonite.
This laboratory activity is easily modified to fit available materials found in the lab or around the house. Imagine the possibilities with different sizes of rubber stoppers, fishing weights, or glass beads. Simply modify the lab sheet to fit the materials and rename the element. So many possibilities!