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Physical Science Projects

Puja Lalwani Oct 8, 2018
Check list of projects for science fair or just to understand mechanics of physical science.
Physical science projects, or projects based on the principles of physics are great tools to introduce the basics of this interesting subject to kids. It is a thought-provoking process, that enables them to figure out and understand the whys and hows rather than just accepting these stated facts as they are
To make a physical science project successful, what is most important is originality and thorough research. Once you have done those, you are ready to wow your school with these great ideas.

Elementary School

At the elementary level, concepts of physical science should be introduced by means of some simple experiments that explain basic principles of this science. To introduce the basics of physics to students in elementary school, the following elementary science projects will be of good use.

How Well do Objects Float in Salt Water?

It has been noticed that it is easier to float in a sea or an ocean than in a swimming pool. This is because of the salt content in the sea. Salt dissolved in water increases its mass, thereby making it dense. Here's a simple project to explain this theory
Material Required
  • Paper clip, 1
  • Containers, 5, all of the same size and shape
  • Pen, 1

Place all the 5 containers beside each other. Add equal amounts of water to them. Leave the first container of water as it is. Add one spoon of salt in the second container, two spoons of salt in the third container, three spoons of salt in the fourth container, and four spoons of salt in the fifth container.
Put a paper clip in the container of water without salt. Observe and note how long it floats. Remove it and put the pen in the same container. Again, observe how long it floats. Now follow the same process with the remaining containers, and note the amount of time each object floats in every container.
You will notice that the objects remain afloat for a longer time in water with more salt content than the others. Neatly present this information on a graph to complete your project.

Make Your Own Compass

Understand the magnetic activity that forms the basis of a compass by making one on your own.
Material Required
  • A bar magnet
  • A thin piece of cork
  • A non-metallic bowl
  • A sewing needle
  • Water

Take the needle and stroke the bar magnet over and over again all over it. This is the process of magnetizing the needle. Now take the piece of cork, and stick the needle through it.
Pour some water in the non-metallic bowl and place the needle and cork in it. The needle will now align itself in the north direction. You can use another compass to verify the accuracy of the compass you have just made.

Middle School

Middle school science projects have slightly more advanced principles. However, after the basics have been established at the elementary level it will be easier to understand these principles and use them for other creations. Here are two ideas to help you out.

Make Your Own Light Bulb

What Thomas Edison took so long to invent, you can do in a matter of a few minutes by following this guide. This project should be supervised by an adult.
Material Required
  • Insulated copper wire, 3 feet
  • Battery, 6 volt
  • Thin iron wire (perhaps from a hanging picture frame)
  • A glass jar with a lid, medium-sized

Cut the copper wire into halves. At a distance of one inch from both the ends, strip the insulation off both the wires. Make two holes in the lid of the jar, not too far from each other. You may have to use a nail to pierce through the lid. Run a copper wire each, through both the holes.
At each end of the wire, make a hook, that will go inside the jar once you place the lid back on. Take about two to three strands of the iron wire, and twist them together around the hooks of the copper wires. This iron wire performs the function of a filament. With the entire mechanism in place, put the lid back on the jar.
Connect the loose exposed ends of the copper wire, to the terminals of the 6 volt battery. This will cause a current to flow, resulting in the heating of the filament, which will give out a bright, orange glow.
You have just made your own light bulb, which will last for about a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the quality of the filament. Don't touch the filament immediately after it has been lit, as it will be very hot.

The Water Wheel

This water wheel project demonstrates the power of water to saw wood, to grind grains, and perform several other functions.
Materials Required
  • Pen/pencil
  • Corrugated cardboard sheet/foam board, 2' x 2'
  • Hot glue
  • Wooden skewer
  • Ruler
  • Protractor
  • String
  • A section of the egg carton that holds the eggs

On the shorter side of the cardboard, make a parallel line two inches away from the edge. Now divide this short side into 10 sections of 1.5 inches each. These will form the paddles of the water wheel.
Now use the protractor to make two circles (6 inch diameter) on the board, and mark the center of these circles using the protractor. It is through this center that the two halves of the water wheel will be connected with an axle, around which the wheel will rotate.
Use scissors to cut out the 1.5 inch sections you drew earlier. Also cut out the circles you have made on the board. Use a protractor to mark the position of the paddles on the wheel, at about intervals of 40ยบ. Like the spokes of a bicycle, all the paddles will be angled towards the center of the wheel, and will be perpendicular to it.
Stick them on the first circle with glue. Stick the other circle above the paddles to complete the wheel. Push the wooden skewer through the center of the wheel. To hold the water wheel in place you will have to make a stand made from the board itself. The stand will be in the shape of the letter 'A'.
Make the base of the stand or the letter 'A' as wide as the diameter of the circle, that is 6 inches. You will need two of these, connected with a piece of cardboard (using glue) on either side, to complete it and make it sturdy. These are the support beams of the stand. The stand should be as wide as the finished water wheel to keep it in place.
At the tip of 'A' cut a small wedge in the shape of the letter 'V' to hold the axle (wooden skewer). Place the entire wheel with the axle in the 'V' shaped wedge of the stand. To make the stand sturdy, stick it on a flat board base.
Place the water wheel under the kitchen faucet. Open the faucet and allow a small amount of water to flow and spin the wheel. You can determine the pressure of the water to see what works best for your water wheel.
Now use one section of the aforementioned egg carton as a bucket, by making two small holes on opposite ends and pushing a string through it, to make a handle. Attach it to the axle of the wheel, to see how much weight can be lifted in the bucket, with the wheel rotating under the stream of water.

High School

High school is a more advanced level, so here are a few ideas for you to ponder on and to figure out the mechanics on your own, to better understand the intricacies of physics. These ideas will force you to stretch the limits of your imagination.

Build Your Own Balloon Rocket Car

To build your own rocket car, you will need a plastic water bottle, 4 water bottle caps, two long toothpicks, a thick and long tube, and a balloon. A rocket functions on pressurized gas which is released through a nozzle.
When the pressure in the balloon is released without tying it, it performs the same function as the pressurized gas. Try to build the balloon rocket car based on this principle.

Discover How Downhill Acceleration is Affected by the Course

Use several pieces of cardboard on a slant, coated with different materials such as butter, wax, salt, and cornstarch and roll an object such as a checker down these pieces, to see how the surface of the cardboard affects the momentum of the checker.
This project is all about the principles of kinetic energy which you can easily understand upon observing the speed of the checker on different surfaces.
These physical science projects will help you comprehend the subject better and serve as good ideas for a project in an upcoming science fair. Good Luck!