This article is a sequel to Science Fair Project Ideas – Part 1 but can be read and used independently. Both articles are designed to provide project ideas. The hardest part of a science fair project may very likely be getting started. Once you have an idea in mind it is easy to formulate what experiments and research you will need to do. Until you chose a topic you do not have anything to aim toward. The science fair project is typically designed as an educational tool. This article is not designed to hand you an idea for a project. My goal is that these ideas will point you in the right direction or even give inspiration for another related idea. The three descriptions here will give you an outline, not a project; it is your job to expand on a project idea.
Idea number one: The effect of earthquakes on building structures. The main focus of this idea is to show how lateral ground movement affects the structure of a building. Some answers will only be found through research, specifically on ‘inertia’. The experiment suggested here will require a large piece of rough sand paper and at least one Slinky toy (two are needed for a second idea). The set up for this experiment is simple. Place the Slinky on the sandpaper (rough side up). Then pull on the sandpaper to move it about six inches. You should observe that the top half of the Slinky leans backward then catches back up to bottom half once the sand paper stops moving. While an actual building is much more solid than a Slinky, the walls will still bend, since the force of an earthquake is much greater than that of pulling on the sand paper. This experiment can be taken to a second phase. Pull on the sandpaper just as before but in a back and forth motion. Notice how the top of the Slinky reacts to the change in direction. Another variation for this idea is to connect two Slinky toys together and repeat the experiment. The taller Slinky combo will replicate a taller building and you can observe if the height of a building has an effect on the impact of the lateral movement.
Idea number two: How is static electricity is produced. The main focus of this idea is to see how static electricity effects various objects. Some research key words will be ‘static charge’, ‘protons’ and ‘electrons’. Your study here will involve the placement, or displacement of electrons. The basic experiment of this idea will require a balloon, string, tape and a hair dryer. Blow up a balloon, tie a string around the bottom (the knot) and tape the other end of the string to a ledge like a table or shelf so that the balloon can hang freely. After washing your hands, rub one rapidly in a back and forth motion across one side of the balloon. Now, allow the balloon to hand freely again. Move your hand close to the balloon without touching it. The balloon should move toward your hand. A great variation for this experiment requires you to add two elements. Mark and ‘x’ on the balloon where you will rub. Then, get the balloon to spin slowly before placing your hand up to it. This will show that the excess charge is in the location you rubbed. Another fun trick is to turn a faucet on so a very small stream of water is flowing. Comb your hair with a standard comb then hold it up to the stream of water. The water will actually bend away from the comb.
Idea number three: How does a first class lever work? The main focus of this idea is to build a first-class lever and to examine its advantage. Some key terms for this idea that you will need to research are ‘fulcrum’, ‘effort force’, ‘effort arm’ and ‘load arm’. In this experiment you will need to build a simple lever. Use a broom, table and a chair it you like. Place the broom handle under the edge of the table and across the back of the chair. You should be able to easily lift the table by pushing down on the brush end of the broom if you have your fulcrum (the chair) in the right spot. You can change the experiment by placing the fulcrum under the broom in different spots. Try placing the chair close the table, then close to the brush end of the broom, then in the middle. Compare the amount of effort needed in each location. Another experiment idea is the classic teeter-totter (see-saw). Using two volunteers of different weight, place one on each end of the teeter-totter then experiment by changing placement of the volunteers. What locations work best? How does moving the lighter person toward the center of the teeter-totter affect the lifting abilities? How about moving the heavier person?
These three additional science fair project ideas may give you a good place to start on your project. Please be sure to research each idea extensively and even create your own variations of the experiments. It is likely that more ideas will be presented in future articles.