Help With Defining a Project

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Help With Defining a Project

Postby RosewyndeST » Sun Oct 28, 2012 7:27 pm

My child wanted to do an experiment involving some of her favorite things, drawing and writing tools. With some help she settled on the idea of testing these tools out on different surfaces and determining which tools would work when you were writing with them on different materials. The teacher is telling us that she doesn't see how this project would be measurable as it is a Yes/No sort of experiment. She suggested asking the experts on the sites she provided, of which yours is the only one we can find a "ask a question" place. I see several experiments on your site that are very similar in results to this one. Why is this not an acceptable science experiment if some of yours are acceptable? Is there a way to make it acceptable? Say for instance noting how many times you have to wipe the writing with a cloth before it becomes illegible, and maybe stop after a set number of wipes if no changes are evident. Or is there another experiment that you can suggest that would involve drawing or writing? We couldn't find any among the suggestions on your site.
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Project Question: Writing tools on different surfaces
Project Due Date: No due date yet, proposal due 10/31/2012
Project Status: I am just starting

Re: Help With Defining a Project

Postby drowningfish » Sun Oct 28, 2012 8:27 pm


I think maybe what her teacher means when she said the experiment was not measurable was that there is such as wide range of results you can possibly have from assessing how well drawing/ writing tools work on different materials. The reason is that there are two variables here: the tool and the material. And from your description, it sounds as if the analysis is pretty objective. I suggest modifying your experiment so that there is only one variable that changes--either the tool or the material, not both. Another way you can fix this is, like you suggested, to find a way to quantify your results.

If you want to assess different drawing tools, I would suggest first finding different types of tools that vary widely in their properties. For example, you might choose to assess chalk, charcoal, crayon, colored pencil, pencil, inks, and pastels. The independent variable, the one you manipulate, in this case would be the drawing tool. The dependent variable would be the thing that changes as a result. You can decide what you want to measure as a the dependent variable for the experiment, and as you mentioned, it can be the number of times it takes to wipe it off with cloth. However, everything else has to stay constant, including what you are drawing on (maybe wood). That way you will be sure that the effectiveness of the drawing tool is a result of the tool itself, and that the material you are drawing on is not a factor that can confound your results.

I also found another experiment that involves seeing whether there is a difference between drawing skills of different genders that you might want to take a look at: ... 6_138.html

Good luck with the experiment!
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Re: Help With Defining a Project

Postby RosewyndeST » Sun Oct 28, 2012 11:10 pm

Let me put down the variables just as we gave them to the teacher originally so you can see that we've basically done what you suggested. What is throwing me is that she doesn't seem to think it's "measurable" enough as the answer to the question is a yes/no answer that is based on visual perspective. But i see plenty of experiments on here that are based on the same thing. As for the too many variables issue, I think we were looking for more of an idea of what tool or tools write and stay best on each different type of material and maybe some ideas for why they do based on the tools and materials properties. To do that you need different materials and different tools. We could stick to just one material, but . . it seemed like to little for an experiment. See below and let me know if there's anything we can do. Does this seem like a good experiment? Or are we barking up the wrong tree so to speak?


Writing on Different Materials

How well do different writing tools work on different materials?

I have always loved writing and drawing and I think it would be cool to know what materials I could write on. I’ve used pencils, crayons, permanent markers, and ballpoint pens on paper and they all work well. I know that there are times when people need to write on other materials like wood, plastic, glass, or aluminum foil.

Refined question
How well do pencils, crayons, markers, and pens work on wood, plastic, rock, or aluminum foil?

Independent/Manipulated Variable variable
The materials: wood, plastic, aluminum foil, glass, rock.

Dependent/Responding variable
Do the tools write on and stay on the material.

Constants/ Controlled variables
The tools: pencil, pen, marker, and crayon. How well they work on paper can be the control group as we know were designed for that.

I think some tools will work better on some materials than others and some won’t work at all. They will all work on paper and wood. Some will work on glass, plastic, rock, and tin foil but will probably not stay well because they are harder and smother surfaces.

Plans or Procedures
Testing the writing tools on different surfaces.
Seeing how well it writes compared to how well it writes on paper.
Testing how well it stays on the materials. Wipe it off with a cloth or possibly run under water.
Do research to see why the tools are staying or coming off certain materials.

Tools - colored markers, permanent markers, pencils, crayons, ballpoint pens, colored pencils.
Surfaces being written on - Wood, paper, tinfoil, glass, plastic, and rock.

So instead of going with this we found the only experiment on here that appealed to my kid, the one with combining colors with the drill and color wheels which is measurable but seems too simple for an 8th grade science project. I'd really like to make the one above work for her instead of using one someone else thought up.
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Joined: Sun Oct 28, 2012 7:15 pm
Occupation: Parent of Student
Project Question: Writing tools on different surfaces
Project Due Date: No due date yet, proposal due 10/31/2012
Project Status: I am just starting

Re: Help With Defining a Project

Postby donnahardy2 » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:31 am

Hi Rosey,

It’s great that your child wants to do a project using writing tools. A project that the child is interested is usually the best choice.

Drowning fish has given you some really excellent advice for controlling the experiment and using just one independent variable at a time., however, there’s still the problem of measuring results. It sounds like your child’s teacher is expecting a project with results that can be measured in centimeters, grams, or degrees Centigrade, and it’s not clear how the results of different writing tools on a piece of paper could be quantitated. There is a piece of scientific equipment called a densitometer that will take a photograph of images and quantitate the image density. Your child could imitate this by taking developing a scale of 1 to 10, for example, to evaluate the results. You should check with the teacher to see if this would be acceptable for this assignment. I have seen this done at science fairs and it's perfectly acceptable to me as a science fair judge, however, the final decision on this is up to the teacher.

However, since your child's teacher has a specific requirement for measurable results, I think you may need to change the experimental design.
Since the deadline is imminent, I recommend that you check out other projects on the Science Buddies website and look for one with results that can be measured and graphed. That's really what the teacher wants to see.

For almost any type of project, your daughter could use her artistic skills to make a scientific drawing of her results. A good drawing will add a lot to the display board. Here is information from this website on drawings: ... wing.shtml

For example, here is a project that requires counting seeds in various fruits and would lend itself to beautiful drawings. And your daughter would learn something about botany and seed dispersal. There are many more projects on the website, but be sure and pick one that will yield quantitative results. ... #procedure

I hope this helps.

Donna Hardy
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