Ask an Expert: Is Spidron Project based on the Scientific Method?
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Is Spidron Project based on the Scientific Method?
Hello! My name is Gaby Schleining and I am in the eighth grade. I have decided to do an advanced science project based on the "Tiling with Spidrons" project at http://www.sciencebuddies.com/mentoring ... ?from=Home
My goal is to create as many polyhedra as possible with spidrons, but use the number of spidrons as parameters, i.e. how many different polyhedra can I create with 7 spidrons? with 8? with 9? with 15? etc. and describe a mathematical function that could give the number of polyhedra that can be made with x spidrons, if such a function exists. How can this project be devised as a fair test? What are the variables? How do I devise the hypothesis? Is this project an actual experiment where you define the variables, and test your hypothesis, and analyze the data, if this project has any data? I am really confused, and I am not sure if my science teacher will accept this project as an experimental project or if I need to rethink my entire topic. I really want to do this project because I feel that I can be creative with this one, and I definitely do not want to change projects. I am afraid that my teacher will tell me to do so if this is not something that can be tested. Any advice will be valuable. Thank you very much!
My goal is to create as many polyhedra as possible with spidrons, but use the number of spidrons as parameters, i.e. how many different polyhedra can I create with 7 spidrons? with 8? with 9? with 15? etc. and describe a mathematical function that could give the number of polyhedra that can be made with x spidrons, if such a function exists. How can this project be devised as a fair test? What are the variables? How do I devise the hypothesis? Is this project an actual experiment where you define the variables, and test your hypothesis, and analyze the data, if this project has any data? I am really confused, and I am not sure if my science teacher will accept this project as an experimental project or if I need to rethink my entire topic. I really want to do this project because I feel that I can be creative with this one, and I definitely do not want to change projects. I am afraid that my teacher will tell me to do so if this is not something that can be tested. Any advice will be valuable. Thank you very much!
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 Firdtjof Nansen
 Firdtjof Nansen

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Re: Is Spidron Project based on the Scientific Method?
Gaby S. wrote:Hello! My name is Gaby Schleining and I am in the eighth grade. I have decided to do an advanced science project based on the "Tiling with Spidrons" project at http://www.sciencebuddies.com/mentoring ... ?from=Home
My goal is to create as many polyhedra as possible with spidrons, but use the number of spidrons as parameters, i.e. how many different polyhedra can I create with 7 spidrons? with 8? with 9? with 15? etc. and describe a mathematical function that could give the number of polyhedra that can be made with x spidrons, if such a function exists. How can this project be devised as a fair test? What are the variables? How do I devise the hypothesis? Is this project an actual experiment where you define the variables, and test your hypothesis, and analyze the data, if this project has any data? I am really confused, and I am not sure if my science teacher will accept this project as an experimental project or if I need to rethink my entire topic. I really want to do this project because I feel that I can be creative with this one, and I definitely do not want to change projects. I am afraid that my teacher will tell me to do so if this is not something that can be tested. Any advice will be valuable. Thank you very much!
Hello, Gaby!
You have posed a series of difficult questions. I feel a bit out of my league in responding, but I think I can offer some general guidance.
First of all, BRAVO to you for considering this challenging project. I read through the project and the web sites that are referenced there, and spidrons seem like a fascinating topic for scientific investigation.
Second, one of the characteristics of a good experiment is that it be bounded. I don't know enough about spidrons to state this with certainty, but my gut feeling is that the number of polyhedra would be very large. If I'm right, that would make the project you described unbounded  having so many potential solutions that you effectively won't ever finish. Part of my hesitancy here is that I'm not sure how you would effectively build the polyhedra. It seems like a very challenging project to undertake, perhaps too challenging for an 8thgrade science experiment.
(Other experts feel free to disagree with me here! I don't want to unnecessarily discourage Gaby in this project!)
I think a resonable alternative to the project you proposed would be to do something like build one polyhedran with 6 spidrons, one with 7, and so on, and compare their properties. How are they similar? How are they different? How does their "stackable" nature change  see the reference material about consuming space and creating building blocks?
Also, the Science Buddies site suggests some interesting investigative options that you might consider.
I think this project has the potential to be something you can build on in the future, with more and more complex investigations as you advance in your studies.
I do hope that you found this helpful.
Brian Castelli (OneBriiguy)
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Re: Is Spidron Project based on the Scientific Method?
OneBriiguy wrote:Hello, Gaby!
You have posed a series of difficult questions. I feel a bit out of my league in responding, but I think I can offer some general guidance.
First of all, BRAVO to you for considering this challenging project. I read through the project and the web sites that are referenced there, and spidrons seem like a fascinating topic for scientific investigation.
(Other experts feel free to disagree with me here! I don't want to unnecessarily discourage Gaby in this project!)
I think a reasonable alternative to the project you proposed would be to do something like build one polyhedran with 6 spidrons, one with 7, and so on, and compare their properties. How are they similar? How are they different? How does their "stackable" nature change  see the reference material about consuming space and creating building blocks?
Also, the Science Buddies site suggests some interesting investigative options that you might consider.
I think this project has the potential to be something you can build on in the future, with more and more complex investigations as you advance in your studies.
I do hope that you found this helpful.
Hi all,
Re: "out of my league," I read the references, and found them very difficult to go through. And my training is in mathematics. I majored in mathematics as an undergraduate and have a masters degree in mathematics.
More power to you Gaby S. if you can understand the spidron material. My feeling is that it's at a higher difficulty level than noted.
If it helps, the following seems to be a general spidron website: http://www.szinhaz.hu/edan/SpidroNew/index.htm
Cheers!
Dave
Dave
This does seem like a challenging project, but to answer your question: no, I don't think that this is a scientific experiment having hypotheses, experimental results, etc. I.e. the scientific method.
That doesn't make it a bad project. It could be a very fun project. Math is useful stuff, and you can discover many interesting things about it and even about the world using it.
But if you have a specific assignment to "do an experiment using the scientific method", this probably isn't a good problem to use for that.
But ask your teacher. It might be that you can get a waiver from the strict definition of the assignment if you are interested enough in it and your teacher is at all flexible. Just talk about it in advance.
That doesn't make it a bad project. It could be a very fun project. Math is useful stuff, and you can discover many interesting things about it and even about the world using it.
But if you have a specific assignment to "do an experiment using the scientific method", this probably isn't a good problem to use for that.
But ask your teacher. It might be that you can get a waiver from the strict definition of the assignment if you are interested enough in it and your teacher is at all flexible. Just talk about it in advance.
../ray\..
Gaby: someone asked about my response in another forum, wondering if my comment wasn't true for all math and CompSci "experiments", and I wrote this answer that you might find useful:
"Math and computer science projects *per se* are usually not terribly scientific, but it's certainly possible to use computers and/or to do more traditional experiments, or to simulate something that might be too dangerous/expensive/difficult to actually experiment on.
However, there are some cases where even just pure math could be considered scientific. Here's an example:
I hypothesize that a fractal defined in the following way (whatever) would have some interesting properties that differed in some way from some "standard" fractal. I implement a computer program to render this fractal and calculate metrics of those properties. This is an "experiment" in that the data you get from doing it can be used to modify your hypotheses. So it's analogous to a scientific experiment.
In a sense, the fractal in this example is treated a "natural phenomenon" which you're investigating. In an example like this, things like the general form of the equation used might be a "constant" and one or more of the coefficients might be the "independent variables". The properties under investigation, such as the "dimensionality" of the fractal, are possible "dependent variables" to determine. Calculating the same dependents for a known "standard" fractal that you wanted to compare against would be a "control".
This works for fractals, because it's a widely investigated field with well defined properties that fractals have that can be calculated, and a large body of knowledge to draw from. It still would be a bit of challenge to come up with something to measure, but I can imagine it being pretty manageable. Also, the field is quite wide, there being lots of different kinds of fractals to consider.
It might be possible to do something like this with the spidrons you asked about in your post, but I expect that would be quite a challenging project. Maybe that's just because I really don't know anything about them, so I don't know what kinds of properties might be suitable for measurement/calculation, nor whether these properties can be easily calculated. I don't know that there's that much variability among them, either (again, may just be ignorance). It might be tricky to find any kind of "control" to compare against, though that's not strictly required for a scientific experiment.
Does that help any?
"
Linking that to your specific question, I don't know how you could rigorously calculate that number of polyhedra  as a previous poster mentioned, it might be very large, and it might not even be well defined, I don't really know. If you can, and there's some theory you have about, say, the relationship between # of spidrons and the number of polyhedra you can form with them, then that might be a question worth pursuing. And it would be possible to frame that Question in scientific terms. Perhaps there are some theories out there that you could retest (not all science has to be "original"... it's very useful for someone to replicate another's results if there's any doubt about them at all).
Is it truly "science"? That's more of a philosophical question than a technical one and I don't have a very good answer for you. That is why I suggested you talk it over with your teacher. If the only "theories" you can come up with can simply be proven mathematically, there's not much to "experiment" with... and if it can't be proven, it might be a challenge to calculate it.
"Math and computer science projects *per se* are usually not terribly scientific, but it's certainly possible to use computers and/or to do more traditional experiments, or to simulate something that might be too dangerous/expensive/difficult to actually experiment on.
However, there are some cases where even just pure math could be considered scientific. Here's an example:
I hypothesize that a fractal defined in the following way (whatever) would have some interesting properties that differed in some way from some "standard" fractal. I implement a computer program to render this fractal and calculate metrics of those properties. This is an "experiment" in that the data you get from doing it can be used to modify your hypotheses. So it's analogous to a scientific experiment.
In a sense, the fractal in this example is treated a "natural phenomenon" which you're investigating. In an example like this, things like the general form of the equation used might be a "constant" and one or more of the coefficients might be the "independent variables". The properties under investigation, such as the "dimensionality" of the fractal, are possible "dependent variables" to determine. Calculating the same dependents for a known "standard" fractal that you wanted to compare against would be a "control".
This works for fractals, because it's a widely investigated field with well defined properties that fractals have that can be calculated, and a large body of knowledge to draw from. It still would be a bit of challenge to come up with something to measure, but I can imagine it being pretty manageable. Also, the field is quite wide, there being lots of different kinds of fractals to consider.
It might be possible to do something like this with the spidrons you asked about in your post, but I expect that would be quite a challenging project. Maybe that's just because I really don't know anything about them, so I don't know what kinds of properties might be suitable for measurement/calculation, nor whether these properties can be easily calculated. I don't know that there's that much variability among them, either (again, may just be ignorance). It might be tricky to find any kind of "control" to compare against, though that's not strictly required for a scientific experiment.
Does that help any?
"
Linking that to your specific question, I don't know how you could rigorously calculate that number of polyhedra  as a previous poster mentioned, it might be very large, and it might not even be well defined, I don't really know. If you can, and there's some theory you have about, say, the relationship between # of spidrons and the number of polyhedra you can form with them, then that might be a question worth pursuing. And it would be possible to frame that Question in scientific terms. Perhaps there are some theories out there that you could retest (not all science has to be "original"... it's very useful for someone to replicate another's results if there's any doubt about them at all).
Is it truly "science"? That's more of a philosophical question than a technical one and I don't have a very good answer for you. That is why I suggested you talk it over with your teacher. If the only "theories" you can come up with can simply be proven mathematically, there's not much to "experiment" with... and if it can't be proven, it might be a challenge to calculate it.
../ray\..
Re: Is Spidron Project based on the Scientific Method?
Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I'm in the 9th grade. I'm currently facing a similiar problem that Gaby is. I'm just embarking on a 2 year project to be finished in 10th grade, and am researching project ideas. I stumbled across spidrons, and it attracted me because of the way it combines science, math, and art. Its the idea that most interests me at this point. I would really like to do a project about it, but need to formulate an actual experiment with a hypothesis, variables, etc. The previous comments here helped me a lot so far, but I need more!! If anyone has any more ideas at all, that'd be really great.
Thanks
Elizabeth
Thanks
Elizabeth