*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.
Our forests are a very important natural resource that need to be managed wisely. We use wood products for many different purposes: building materials, paper, cardboard, furniture, fuel, etc. How can we use wood products in a sustainable manner? You can do experiments that examine the growth time of different tree species to see which are good candidates for tree farming. Which types of lumber are most sustainable? You can also compare the effects of clear cutting vs. thinning a forested environment, which method is most sustainable? Which method is least intrusive and displaces the least wildlife? Experiment with alternative materials for wood, like concrete, plastic, steel, and alternative decking materials. These materials have plastic and recycled wood fibers mixed together to form a structure similar to a 2x4. Experiment with processes to re-use and recycle wood products into pulp for the cardboard and paper industry. Compare the percentages of recycled material in paper products. Invent ways to minimize paper packaging materials. (National Arbor Day Foundation, 2006; NPS, 2006; EPA, 2006)
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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.
Are you passionate about the environment? Do you like developing and implementing new ideas? Do you enjoy talking with people about how humans impact nature? If these things are true about you, then you may be the ideal candidate for a job as a sustainability specialist. Sustainability specialists work in large and small corporations and universities to design and execute energy and resource conservation programs that reduce their employers' impact on the environment. This is a great career for people who enjoy working on teams, are socially responsible, and like to get things done!
Commercial & Industrial Designer
Have you always loved art? Do you have a good eye for beauty, balance, and form? How would you like to see your designs show up in toy stores? Or in a sporting goods store? Or at a car dealer? Commercial and industrial designers create the shape and form of every type of manufactured good that you can think of—from toys, sporting goods, and medical equipment to high technology products, furniture, toothbrushes, and toasters. They design the form of new products that are as beautiful and pleasing to look at as they are functional.
You’ve probably heard the expression "build a better mousetrap." Industrial engineers are the people who figure out how to do things better. They find ways that are smarter, faster, safer, and easier, so that companies become more efficient, productive, and profitable, and employees have work environments that are safer and more rewarding. You might think from their name that industrial engineers just work for big manufacturing companies, but they are employed in a wide range of industries, including the service, entertainment, shipping, and healthcare fields. For example, nobody likes to wait in a long line to get on a roller coaster ride, or to get admitted to the hospital. Industrial engineers tell companies how to shorten these processes. They try to make life and products better-finding ways to do more with less is their motto.
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