The different species of wood used in construction offer a variety of challenges based on density, porosity, oils in the wood, flexibility, elasticity, etc. The intended use, e.g., structural or cosmetic, presents different challenges as well. The glue must be compatible with the wood, the use, and the climate, so many experiments are possible. For example, you could design an experiment to test the durability of different adhesives using the same wood. Or, you could try different wood…
A solution consists of a solute dissolved in a solvent. A solution is saturated when no additional solute will dissolve in it. Can a saturated solution of sodium chloride dissolve any Epsom salts? Can a saturated solution of Epsom salts dissolve any sodium chloride? How does solubility vary with temperature? How does solubility vary with the surface area of the solute? Design experiments to find out! (Gardner, 1999, 16-17, Stretton, 2004)
Make your own fertile soil using kitchen scraps, manure, leaves, grass clippings, and other compostable materials. Which materials make the best compost? How does the amount of nitrogen change the rate at which the compost forms? How does traditional composting compare to worm composting, or vermiculture? How does the temperature of the compost pile change?
Maybe this has happened to you: you're going shopping with one of your parents and the parking lot is really crowded. You're helping out, scouting for an empty space. You see someone heading toward their car, taking their keys out, and you point them out. At last, you're going to get a spot. You wait for the person to pull out so you can park. Does it take them longer because you're waiting? Do they move out faster? Or does it just seem that they do? For information on people's…
You can model this with an ice cube sliding down a plank: how high do you need to lift the end of the plank before the ice cube starts to slide? Try this with one side plain wood and the flip side waxed wood (use paraffin wax, candle wax or ski wax). Make sure both sides are equally smooth to start with. Do at least three trials. More advanced: using what you know about the forces acting on the ice cube, derive equations to calculate the coefficient of friction for each case. Variation:…
How does ski wax affect the sliding friction of skis? You can model this with an ice cube sliding down a plank: how high do you need to lift the end of the plank before the ice cube starts to slide? Try this with one side plain wood and the flip side waxed wood (use paraffin wax, candle wax or ski wax). Make sure both sides are equally smooth to start with. Do at least three trials. More advanced: using what you know about the forces acting on the ice cube, derive equations to calculate the…
Try different wind turbine/propeller (chord length, pitch) designs by making models from balsa wood. Connect the spinning axle to a DC motor and measure the voltage produced across a resistor to measure power output. Use fan as wind source. (Judge, 2004)
Some plastics undergo an unusual transition, from a hard, glassy state to a soft, rubbery state, with increased temperature. For this project, you should do background research on the effects of temperature on different types of plastics. Make sure that you understand the difference between thermosetting and thermoplastic polymers. You should also look for information on the glass transition temperature (Tg) for different plastics. Pure polyvinyl acetate has a Tg of 28 C (about…
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Adult supervision required for experiments using boiling water.
You probably know that you can use iron filings to reveal the magnetic field produced by a strong magnet. If you sandwich the iron filings between pieces of waxed paper, you can make a permanent record of your magnetic experiments (Gardner, 2004, 66). Cover the wax paper sandwich with a layer of brown paper (from a roll, or cut open a paper shopping bag), and then (with an adult's help) use a hot, dry iron to seal the waxed paper together. You will have to experiment a little with your iron…
Does the force of drag have an effect on the distance the puck will travel? Think of a way to launch the puck with a reproducible force, and examine the effect of launching the puck in different orientations on the distance it travels. For more information on the physics, see Haché, 2002.
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