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High School Physics Science Fair Projects

by Flora Richards-Gustafson

Physics, the study of matter, helps teens understand how elements behave in space and time under the influence of various types of energy and force. Science fair projects about physics give high school students a better understanding about how the universe operates by explaining concepts in ways that are simple enough for peers to understand.

Mpemba Effect

Erasto Mpemba theorized that warm water freezes faster than cold water, a phenomenon that seems to contradict the theory of thermodynamics. For a science project, a teen can test this theory to see whether warm water really does freeze faster than cold water in certain conditions. The teen can test the Mpemba Effect using different types of water that has been heated or cooled to various temperatures before placing them in a freezer, and by setting the freezer to different temperatures to see whether any of the variables make a difference. The use of a remote thermometer will help the teen monitor the cooling of types of water in a freezer.

Stable Equilibrium and Center of Mass

The Tower of Pisa is an example of how a cylinder can stand upright when the center of its mass is above the base. According to a web page on the Illinois Institute of Technology website, a can of soda will not stand if you place the bottom edge and rim on a table when it’s empty or full. However, if your drink about half of the soda, she’ll find that she can balance the can along the bottom edge and rim. For a science project, a student can repeat this exercise by making a cylinder out of cardboard and tape. By wedging pieces of cardboard under one side of the cylinder, the student can see how far the cylinder can lean before it falls. The student should repeat this experiment with cylinders that have different heights and diameters to see whether there is any difference in the results.

Galileo’s Gravity Experiment

Galileo Galilei discovered that the rate at which objects fall is independent of their mass. Therefore, objects dropped from the same height fall at the same rate, regardless of their weight, unless there’s friction. A student can recreate Galileo’s experiment for a science fair project with a grooved ramp made from cardboard, a ball and a stopwatch. The student should position the ramp at different angles to see if the ball rolls down the ramp faster or slower. To add more data to the project, the student can also perform the experiment using balls that have different weights.

Logic Devices

For this science fair project, a student should know how to build electronic circuits and have knowledge of binary numbers. This project explains how electronic devices work because of the logical operations, or functions, programmed into them. By using a breadboard, LED lights, wires, switches and a buzzer, a student makes a simple circuit that has resistors and binary inputs and outputs. The student then makes a hypothesis regarding the illumination of the LEDs and the sound of the buzzer in relation to the switches. He then tests the hypothesis by experimenting with the switch and inputs to make an inverter and an electronic gate with switches for two outputs. During the experiment, the student should measure the currents and voltages of the gates for the different configurations that he creates, notating differences in the buzzer’s volume if the LED lights illuminate.

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