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Science Demos for High Schoolers

  1. Jun 15, 2012 #1
    I've been tutoring science for some high school kids for several months now, and this week we finally got our hands dirty and put together a copper sulfate and zinc battery for a school project, which was pretty neat. It went over really well with the family. So well in fact that they want me to start doing a weekly experiment/demo with the kids.

    Now my brief Google research turned up a few interesting demos, but a lot of them were just the usual little kids fare, like cornstarch, baking soda and vinegar, borax gak, etc. I'm looking for some safe but slightly more sophisticated demos more appropriate for high school kids. And I figured people here at PF had to have some favorites, so let's hear 'em! Any ideas are appreciated, from physics to chemistry to biology to whatever. Also, cheaper is better as always.
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  3. Jun 15, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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  4. Jun 15, 2012 #3


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    Hey Opus_723.

    One demo I recommend is based off an actual experiment that was presented as part of a TED talk. Here is the link:


    I don't know if you will have trouble getting the equipment (hopefully if you are at a uni you could borrow it with some arm twisting), but this would be a good experiment IMO for kids.
  5. Jun 15, 2012 #4
    Depending on where you are, perhaps http://orise.orau.gov/science-education/research-experiences/k-12/default.aspx would interest some. The teach the teacher things they do were good over the years.
  6. Jun 15, 2012 #5
    You may know the demonstration of Lenz's law where you drop a neodymium magnet down a copper or aluminum pipe and it takes forever to come out the bottom.

    I discovered you can demonstrate the same thing with an aluminum yard stick or meter stick and a relatively flat neodymium magnet.

    The magnet I got is about 5/8 inch diameter and 1/8 inch thick. You let this slide down the length of an aluminum yard stick that is propped at a shallow angle against a table or wall. It takes 4-5 seconds. Contrast that time of descent with a common coin of the same size. The coin will slide down the yard stick in less than a second. In fact it's better if you demonstrate the coin first, then do the magnet.

    The coin and yard stick have no effect on each other. The magnet, though, generates electrical eddy currents in the aluminum as it moves. The direction of those eddy currents is always such that their magnetic field opposes the magnetic field of the magnet (like pole vs like pole) and resists the motion of the magnet, greatly slowing its rate of descent along the yard stick.

    Any sheet of aluminum stiff enough to stand up by itself will work for this, of course. If you can get hold of a longer one, so much the better: the time of descent will be longer.
  7. Jun 15, 2012 #6


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    Nice link, Simon. Lots of good ideas in there!

    @Opus -- where are you located? Are there any good science museums near you? Something like the Exploratorium in San Francisco?


    You could talk to the parents and organize a weekend field trip to such a place. With you there to help answer questions and Mentor them, it could be a very fun and inspirational day.
  8. Jun 15, 2012 #7


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    Also, are you in university? If so, you could see if any of the departments would let you bring the high school students through some of the labs for tours. The laser lab would be fun for sure, and the CNC workshop, and the fluid dynamics lab, etc.

    Does your university have an annual open house day? Those are common recruiting and alumni celbration tools that universities use. You could organize a field trip to that open house day, when most of those labs will be open and have demos anyway.

    Here is the annual open house day for my undergrad school (Picnic Day at UC Davis):

    http://www.ucdavis.edu/ucdavis-today/2012/april/19-picnic-day.html [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  9. Jun 15, 2012 #8

    Chi Meson

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  10. Jun 15, 2012 #9


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