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Homework Help: Help with ideas about physics projects.

  1. Aug 21, 2011 #1
    Hello. I am new here so I don't really know where my question belongs. Anyway, I hope I am in the right topic. I am not an engineer or anything. I am not even in college yet. :tongue: I am starting my senior year in september and the thing is, I am specialized in mathematics, (which means the most important subjects are math and physics) and I would like to go to an engineering institute. What I would like is to make a project, involving physics for example, (an experiment or anything) that would allow me to be accepted (I have high grades and I hope I have a shot at a good institute). The problem is, I live in Tunisia, so this kind of opportunities are not exactly a dime a dozen in my country, that's why I really need your help. I want ideas abt projects, just ideas to start with cause I really have no clue and I would like to start as soon as possible (like, even tomorrow :tongue: ). I can manage to have a little help from physics teachers but I have to come up with an idea first. I looked everywhere and I only find little science experiments (too easy, not "creative" enough). I would really appreciate some good ideas, and thank you for your time.
    P.S. : english is only my 3rd language, so I apologize for syntax or spelling mistakes. :redface:
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2011 #2
    Any idea what you want to study, specifically?

    Since you didn't say, I'll give you a general and relatively basic project that I remember liking..
    I once taught a summer course for ambitious high school seniors like yourself. One particularly neat lab project that we did (I did not come up with the idea) had the students predict the max angle of inclination that a little electric train could ascend (just the 'locomotive' without any 'cars' attached), and then verify their prediction, experimentally. Then, the students repeated the calculation and experiment for the case when the locomotive is pulling a load.

    Traction was the limiting factor in all cases.

    This required the students to 1) have a vague understanding of "driven wheels" and know how to experimentally determine a coefficient of friction, 2) know some statics. We also made them write a bit on the history of early American rail :)

    What you'd need:
    -electric train
    -several feet of track
    -some kind of improvised, adjustable, ramp
    -a means of measuring angle of inclination (an "angle level"?)
    -some cars for the locomotive to pull

    You would also need to determine the maximum force that the locomotive can impart to a force sensor, on a flat surface, before the wheels begin to spin. You would need this value of force in order to determine the coefficient of static friction between the locomotive's wheels and the rails. So, you'll also need:

    -force sensor, or some alternative, creative, way of measuring pulling force.

    If you like mechanics, this is a good experiment, and I'd imagine that your predictions should be within 10% of the experimental results, which is nice.

    If you know that you specifically want to study civil engineering, for example, or you are more interested in chemistry, EE, etc., then there would be better projects for you to do. E.x. Demonstrate transmission line power loss via an experiment involving a hand crank and a light bulb with varying lengths of wire...

    Very few high schoolers have the ambition to understand and implement the train project (if it appears simple, great! ..I am speaking from experience though), so colleges should be impressed, right?

    I would, however, keep in mind that admissions committees are made up of professors who do real research, and so, whatever you end up doing for your physics project will be viewed as 'cute,' at best. Just do something that is interesting to you and is challenging enough that you will learn a thing or two in the process. Your high school teachers will see your hard work and write you excellent references, and your enthusiasm will probably come through in any of your application statements that you write in the next several months.
  4. Aug 22, 2011 #3
    Well, it does not appear so simple haha ! I actually love mechanics, I was worried I'd be given ideas abt chemistry projects cause it's not really my cup of tea. So this idea is really interesting, thank you very much for your help ! I'll try to make the research, you know, physics are taught in french in my country so even though it's not so different and I'm familiar with the english vocab (I've been studying for the SAT 2), I'll have to know what exactly is a driven wheel for example... I am willing to put efforts into this project :) And yes I am aware the best I can do will be viewed as "cute" by the admissions committees, but hey, still better than nothing.
    Again, thank you so much for your time, you've been very helpful !
  5. Aug 29, 2011 #4
    I am sorry, but how much time do you think this will take ?
  6. Aug 30, 2011 #5
    Shouldn't take too long at all to build.

    feel free to PM me with any specific questions
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