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Others Like “How Things Break”

Project Idea
How much force can a rubber band withstand before breaking? Do rubber bands that stretch longer take more or less force to break? How does the elasticity of a rubber band change with temperature? Use a spring scale to measure the applied force, and a meter stick or ruler to measure the change in length. Recording with a video camera (or possibly two) can help you to capture the values at the moment before the rubber band breaks. You can change the temperature of the rubber bands using… Read more
ApMech_p033
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
There are many types of construction materials used for wood-frame houses. Compare the different uses for and strengths of different building materials, e.g.: particle board, plywood, pine, oriented strand board (OSB), and drywall (gypsum board, SheetRock). The Science Buddies Materials Science Resource Stress, Strength and Strain will be helpful for learning about different ways to measure material strength. You should be sure to use the same cross-sectional area of each material in order… Read more
CE_p020
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Project Idea
How strongly do different types of nails hold in wood? Try different diameters of nails, and try pounding them to different depths. To gauge the holding strength, measure how difficult it is to remove the nail. Can you pull it out with a pair of pliers? Can you remove it with the hammer claw? Do you have to push only a little bit, moderately hard, or as hard as you can? Do you need a crowbar? What happens if you pre-drill holes for the nails, using drill bits that are different… Read more
CE_p019
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
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) Read more
Aero_p029
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Project Idea
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. Read more
Aero_p025
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Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Project Idea
Want to send coded messages to your friends? Can you write a simple letter-substitution encryption program in JavaScript? How easy is it to break the simple code? Can you write a second program that "cracks" the letter-substitution code? Investigate other encryption schemes. What types of encryption are least vulnerable to attack? Read more
CompSci_p031
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Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Project Idea
Students who are mathematically inclined can use the student version of a program like MatLab or Mathematica to convert a digital image into numbers, then perform operations such as sharpening or special effects. This is a great way to learn about image processing algorithms. Read more
Photo_p018
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Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Project Idea
For an advanced science fair project, you can build your own telescope and learn how to use it to make observations of the night sky. Can you make your own observations to determine the orbital period of Jupiter's major moons? Complete instructions for building a Dobsonian telescope are available here: http://www.cdcc.sc.usp.br/cda/telescopios/tie-jpl-nasa/. Read more
Astro_p031
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Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Project Idea
Fill a jar a little more than half full with fresh water. Make a solution of salt water, and add a drop or two of food coloring to it. Pour the salt water solution into a plastic cup with a small hole in the bottom, and then place the cup in the jar with fresh water. (The only connection between the fresh and salt water should be via the hole in the bottom of the cup.) With the right combination of hole size and salt concentration, you will see an oscillating current develop in the jar. … Read more
Chem_p052
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
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… Read more
ApMech_p031
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
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