*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.
Did you know that you can make a simple hygrometer (a device for measuring the relative humidity of the air) with hair? This type of hygrometer is easy to build (for instructions, see: http://www.fi.edu/weather/todo/hygrometer.html). Does the type of hair used in the hygrometer affect the accuracy of the results? Do some types of hair respond faster than others? Do some types of hair give a larger (or smaller) response? You could get hair samples from classmates, or a local beauty shop. Use hair samples of equal length to construct each hygrometer. To force changes in humidity, put a hygrometer in an air-tight container (e.g., a sealed refrigerator dish). To raise the humidity in the container, add an open cup of water. To lower the humidity, use an open container of dessicant. For each trial, keep the hygrometer in the container until the reading stabilizes. Conduct at least three trials with each hygrometer (more is better) to assure yourself that your results are consistent. (Nelson, 2004) Just think: after you do this project you'll know an instant hair-shortening treatment for next time Mom says it's time for a haircut! ;-)
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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.
The atmosphere is a blanket of gases, surrounding Earth, that creates our weather. Meteorologists study the measurements and motion of the atmosphere, and changing events within it, so that they can predict the weather. This weather forecasting helps the general public and people who work in industries such as shipping, air transportation, agriculture, fishing, forestry, and water and power better plan for the weather, and reduce human and economic losses.
Life is all around you in beauty, abundance, and complexity. Biologists are the scientists who study life in all its forms and try to understand fundamental life processes, and how life relates to its environment. They answer basic questions, like how do fireflies create light? Why do grunion fish lay their eggs based on the moon and tides? What genes control deafness? Why don't cancer cells die? How do plants respond to ultraviolet light? Beyond basic research, biologists might also apply their research and create new biotechnology. There are endless discoveries waiting to be found in the field of biology!
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