HOW TO FIND IDEAS FOR
SCIENCE FAIRS IN
FUN SCIENCE GALLERY
Giorgio Carboni, July 1999, updated December 2003
Translation edited by Jennifer Spears
The Glass-Sphere Microscope
Some readers have told us with satisfaction that they have built glass-sphere microscopes for science fairs obtaining very good results. However, if you are in a hurry to finish your research, it would be better to move on to another article because this one will probably take you a month of work if not more. In this article, some observations you can make with a regular compound microscope are also described.
From Lenses to Optical Instruments
These experiments with lenses are appropriate for being performed even in schools. You simply need to get a pair of converging lenses. The experiments show the operation of lenses and of important optical instruments such as telescopes and microscopes.
In this article we describe how to make two models of telescopes. The first of these instruments is very simple to build and lends itself very well to highlighting and discussing the main aberrations of simple lenses and the most important problems in constructing telescopes.
A Sidereal Indicator
The construction of a sidereal pointer calls for a certain dedication and owning a minimum of mechanical equipment. This experiment is very suitable for high school or university classes. The construction of this apparatus is interesting in itself, but also of great interest is its usefulness in learning how to familiarize yourself with the constellations and the system of celestial coordinates. With this tool, you can trace the movement of planets or comets on a celestial map; it is truly an educational experience.
In this article different models of stereoscopes are described. Building a stereoscope is very simple. Similarly, it is also simple to take stereoscopic pictures with a regular camera. This simple experiment is useful for a demonstration and debate of stereoscopy. With a stereoscope it is even possible to see drawings in three dimensions. In fact, with a CAD program you can create the two stereograms by simply rotating the designed object. These activities can be suitable for middle school classes and, in regard to the second part, for high school or college classes.
The Sky in a Room
The experiment described in "The Sky in a Room" is certainly not very demanding. You can also create a little camera obscura by using a box with a translucent screen on a wall and a lens on the opposite wall. The type of camera described in the article will also be useful in a discussion on the operation of convergent lenses, their variation in distance from the screen regarding focus on closer and farther objects. It can also be useful in preparing simple camera devices such as the diaphragm and the shutter and discussing their functions.
The Stereoscopic Microscope
Building a stereoscopic microscope as individual scholastic research or for a science fair can be an effort of great proportions. But we are convinced that for a technical institute and especially as a class experiment, this construction is very useful. For an amateur scientist, this construction may prove to be one of the more formative and interesting experiments. In addition, for little money, this experiment will provide this scientist an instrument of great importance for the observation of nature.
Making an herbarium with the scope of cataloging all the species of vegetables in an environment is an involved enterprise. Making a small herbarium which houses only a few dozen samples instead is a much less binding one, appropriate even for elementary schools. You might also consider doing a collection of seeds, ferns, or algae. The formative and didactic value of this simple experiment is obvious.
The Blood Cells
If you own a compound microscope, observing blood cells is not difficult at all, and this is certainly appropriate for high school students. Remember you can also observe the blood of other animals such as earthworms, amphibians, birds, fish, insects, etc. This experiment lends itself well to conducting a series of observations and comparisons.
The Folk Toys
You can build a copy of one of the toys shown and describe the physical principles of its operation. You could also write a description of the toys used in the neighborhood where you live. Even team games lend themselves to an "anthropological" research of this type.
Experiments in Electrochemistry
Many Fun Science Gallery articles are comprised of several experiments, but you can also just do one. This is particularly the case for the article on experiments in electrochemistry which includes eight experiments, most of which can also be performed in different ways. You could do an experiment on the electrical conductivity of solids testing a range of different materials. You could also do an experiment about the electrical conductivity of water using different amounts of salt or other water-soluble substances and observing that some raise the conductivity while others do not. This article describes many types of batteries, but you are not obligated to make them all: you can limit yourself to just one. You can also compare a lemon battery with a tomato battery and explain why they produce the same tension when using the same electrodes.
Lexical Analysis of Texts
With the program on the "Lexical Analysis of Texts," you can complete interesting research in the linguistic field. For example, you can compare various authors, the language used in different eras; you can compose thesauri of terms used in specific fields such as journalistic, literary, philosophical, scientific, etc. You can extract keywords from a text or highlight repeated expressions. You can also record and transcribe the conversations of teenagers and analyze their language. What about determining the readability of your own compositions and the compositions of your classmates? This article contains programs suitable for high school and college students.
Inspired by this article, you can carry out a small exploration of the environment that surrounds you, identifying and describing the life forms present in your yard or your house’s garden or in the school playground.
By means of a microscope, you can examine the water of a pond or a greenish well and describe the organisms which you encounter, even by drawing them In the articles of “Protist Park”, the main protists which live in freshwater are described.
A One-Dollar Compound Microscope
You don't have a microscope??? It costs too much? What are you waiting for to start building one? . . . and anyway, buying one is too banal: anybody can do that. The model we propose in this project is not costly and any smart girl or boy can make it. This microscope will open up a window on nature for you. If you want to use it to observe protists, it will suit you to equip it with a purchased lens and eyepiece. In your report, you can describe what you observe, but also you can discuss the making of the instrument, explaining how its devices and the proposed solutions work, noting the difficulties you encounter, giving suggestions for resolving decided problems, and detailing how your instrument works.
Science Experiment for Environmental Education and Biology
Under this title, you will find a number of different experiments on soil, raising microorganisms, plants and animals, biology experiments, etc. In short, this is a true mine of ideas for interesting and entertaining laboratory activities.
Let’s Build a Stereo-Zoom Microscope!
As we said about the construction of the normal stereoscopic microscope, building an instrument like this for a science fair takes an effort of great proportions. But we assure you that for a motivated kid, this project is an exciting challenge in addition to highly educational. Moreover, it will open the doors of a fantastic universe.
A report on adjusting your microscope so that you can make observations in three dimensions at a high power could be very interesting. Few people know that it is possible to furnish a normal microscope with a third dimension.
Surface Phenomena and Colloids
Have you ever blow cubic soap bubbles? No?!... Not even pyramid-shaped ones??? You absolutely must try this! This article collects a series of experiments on strange phenomena involving surfaces across different media such as surface tension, capillarity, wettability, osmosis. Other experiments regard soaps and detergents, other strange substances like gelatin, emulsions, and foams. All of these experiments are suited for science fairs. Fun is assured as well as a very good grade.
A Panoramic Camera
Building a panoramic camera is not a mere trifle. This is probably the most complicated experiment of those we have proposed so far, and yet... And yet, in this article we also describe the construction of a simple pin-hole camera and some techniques for shooting landscapes even with normal cameras.
Experiments with Acids and Bases
This article offers the possibility of doing simple experiments and some little original research very suited to being presented at science fairs. The first experiment consists of measuring the degree of acidity of household substances such as vinegar, lemon, baking soda, beverages, etc. A second experiment consists of producing indicating papers themselves with red cabbage juice. A third experiment consists of fixing the color scale of these papers. Continuing in this path, you can go in search of natural indicating substances (mulberry, elder, etc.), prepare indicating papers with them, and even fix the color scale with them.
Pictures and Movies With the Microscope
If you have a microscope and a camera, or better a suitable video camera, you can take pictures and video of little organisms through the microscope. This type of documentation could be used as the basis for research presentable at a science fair.
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