*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.
Try gluing wood together with different types of glue, e.g.: regular white glue, yellow wood glue, cyanoacrylate (super glue), and Liquid Nails. Glue a short piece (5–8 cm) to the center of a longer piece (15–30 cm). After the glue has dried for the recommended time, drill a small hole through the center of the joint, big enough to pass through a piece of coat-hanger wire. Cut a length of coat hanger wire, pass it through the hole, and twist the ends together to form a loop. Place the ends of the longer piece of wood on sturdy supports (e.g., between two workbenches), with the shorter piece of wood and coat-hanger loop hanging below. Use an S-hook to attach a bucket to the coat hanger loop. Gradually fill the bucket with weights (e.g., water, sand, or metal weights) until the either the glue joint or the wood itself breaks. Record the weight at which failure occurred. (Hess, 2006) Here are a few ideas for variations (you can probably think of others yourself):
You can see if the type of wood makes a difference.
You could see if the surface finish makes a difference by sanding the wood with different grades of sandpaper before gluing.
You can also see whether clamping the pieces together while the glue is drying makes a difference.
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Materials Scientist and Engineer
What makes it possible to create high-technology objects like computers and sports gear? It's the materials inside those products. Materials scientists and engineers develop materials, like metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, that other engineers need for their designs. Materials scientists and engineers think atomically (meaning they understand things at the nanoscale level), but they design microscopically (at the level of a microscope), and their materials are used macroscopically (at the level the eye can see). From heat shields in space, prosthetic limbs, semiconductors, and sunscreens to snowboards, race cars, hard drives, and baking dishes, materials scientists and engineers make the materials that make life better.
Mechanical engineers are part of your everyday life, designing the spoon you used to eat your breakfast, your breakfast's packaging, the flip-top cap on your toothpaste tube, the zipper on your jacket, the car, bike, or bus you took to school, the chair you sat in, the door handle you grasped and the hinges it opened on, and the ballpoint pen you used to take your test. Virtually every object that you see around you has passed through the hands of a mechanical engineer. Consequently, their skills are in demand to design millions of different products in almost every type of industry.
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