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Highschool Senior Project Ideas

  1. Sep 13, 2010 #1

    I am having a hard time figuring out an idea I can use as my senior project in High School. I am currently in an Honors level physics class and the school year has just begun so we haven't learned much yet but. I am very interested in physics. So if anyone could help me with some ideas it would be greatly appreciated. As long as they are within the capability of a High School student.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2010 #2
    Try measuring the speed of light. Couple methods. Spining prisms, etc with laser, and measure with photosensor/oscilloscope. Or, less accurate, in a long hallway at night at school, set up a measured path way using prisms and mirrors to round corners (may have to go from end to end several times on different paths to get a long enough distance, maybe 500 feet or more) and catch the light with a sensor and use scope or something to time a pulse of the laser first as it fires and again as it returns from the trip down the hallways and back. The speed would be, of course, calculated from the time to travel and the distance. These are always interesting, the result of how close you get, say 1-5 % accuracy will get a good grade, etc.

    Or build a radio telescope with standard receivers, yagi antennaes (tv antennae type) and listen to Jupiter, the sun and other sources.

    A Google search can offer more details and also a search for science fair project ideas should yield many ideas.

    For example:
    sites for project ideas, http://www.parallax.com/tabid/281/Default.aspx [Broken]
    or Parallax.com

    Science Apps:
    http://www.parallax.com/Resources/ApplicationsContests/Science/tabid/281/Default.aspx [Broken]

    Application edu. and FAQs:
    http://www.parallax.com/Education/EducationHome/tabid/463/Default.aspx [Broken]

    Physics & Near Space Projects, User Contributions, etc.
    http://www.parallax.com/SearchResults/tabid/37/Default.aspx?Search=physics [Broken]

    good luck
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Sep 14, 2010 #3
    How about an apparent perpetual motion device? Apparent meaning that most people will think that it's impossible and that the videos are Youtube frauds, quite likely your physics teacher as well!

    It's called Directly Downwind Faster Than The Wind or DDWFTTW for short. This topic has been hotly discussed on many internet forums over the last four years (including here) and has just recently been proven with a full scale vehicle, setting a land speed record in a new category made specifically for it. A small model can be built for less than $100 and be demonstrated working in the classroom or at a science fair using a typical treadmill.

    Here's an early video of a small scale test:

    Here's a very good explanation of the mechanics behind it:

    Here's how to build a small model that you can run on a treadmill (scroll down to find the picture of the plans and click on the picture - can't seem to link it directly):
    http://www.rtfa.net/tag/cart [Broken]

    With videos taking you through the build:

    Here's a video showing the model in action on a treadmill (the test shown was to disprove some deniers' claims about the vehicle):

    Here's Mac Gaunaa demonstrating the model to a group of world class aero physicists(!):

    With the first of his six part explanation of wind powered carts:

    And finally a video that you can have playing in the background, showing a recent test of a full-sized, manned vehicle that goes faster than the wind powering it:

    This concept can be as simple or as complex as you have time for. You demonstrate the idea behind it with a Yo-Yo and then back it up with the math. Another group of high school students used this for their science fair and won first prize with it.

    If you can understand all the important parts of what makes this simple looking device work, you'll have a big head-start on a college level physics course. Cheap and easy to build, demonstrates a wide range of physics, controversial, and a proven winner!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Sep 14, 2010 #4
    There are some under-researched areas that you could make a real contribution to. For example, why does hot water freeze faster under a wide variety of conditions? You could explore one boundary and add to the body of knowledge.

    When I was designing a suspended desk, I could not find information about how hard screws stuck in plywood. I read that early data for hardwoods were not repeated with more modern materials. It's fairly easy to test and find out about thread sizes and optimal pilot hole sizes etc.

    I also think it would be cool to build a Farnsworth Fuser.
  6. Sep 14, 2010 #5
    lots of ideas, thanks everyone!

    Does anyone else have any others?
  7. Sep 14, 2010 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Maybe take a look at the projects done by the entrants in the Intel Science Fair and Talent Search competition:

    http://www.societyforscience.org/Page.aspx?pid=489 [Broken]

    I walked through the fair this year when it was here in San Jose, CA, and many of the projects were impressive. Maybe reading through the subjects covered will help to spark ideas for you to look into more.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Sep 14, 2010 #7
    One question though: Are these ideas capable of a High School Honors Physics student?
  9. Sep 14, 2010 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    If you're referring to the Intel competition projects, then yes. They are mainly international high school students who enter, I believe.
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