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Summer program project ideas

  1. Jun 4, 2015 #1
    Hello guys,
    I'm a master's here in California and just accepted a job offer for the summer. I will be in charge of a pilot program where I am in charge of 15 students (juniors and seniors interested in science) for 2.5 hours a day, monday through thursday, for 5 weeks.
    I have to have them present a project at the end of the program. I was wondering if any of you have any good ideas or resources for a project? I have to develop all of the teaching materials and even the curriculum for what will be the focus in about a week and a half, so I am quite overwhelmed at the moment.
    Any help will be appreciated..
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 4, 2015 #2
    Experimental or a little talk about some phenomenon focussed on the theory?
    About the materials, I don't think it is really realistic to develop really good materials in a week and a half.
    Have you looked for something online?
    Perhaps you could use some of your introductory material.
  4. Jun 4, 2015 #3


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    High school?
  5. Jun 4, 2015 #4
    Yes, i will be teaching high school students.
    I have no knowledge of their math background either.
    I was thinking that it might be in my best interest to either have them perform 4-5 projects in small groups, or have them do one big project.
    Then discuss the theory very generally with them prior to that days work. Have them develop small lab write ups for each of the experiments.
    But if i did that i would need to find out what experiments i can do..

  6. Jun 4, 2015 #5
    Well a classic is determining the gravitational acceleration constant g.
    There are dozens of simple experiments that do this with various amounts of equipment needed.

    The first experiment I ever did used a pendulum (length about 1 meter).
    The set-up is quite simple, you need a reasonably good pendulum and a known weight at the end. (all known)
    The period of the pendulum was electronically measured (sensor triggering when the iron arm passed the center).

    This set-up should be cheap and easy to build. If needed a rougher version uses a cord and a weight at the end.
    If you use a large pendulum, a hand timer and the vertical axis can give reasonable results (I believe).

    The first example I give are like http://www.ohio.edu/mechanical/programming/weekly.info/pendulum.html

    Cooler would be if you can get your hands on some of those vibrating plates on which you pour some sand or salt.
    The sand will form patterns for certain frequencies of the vibration, here you can introduce the concept of standing waves (like in strings).
  7. Jun 4, 2015 #6


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    Could you provide a bit more detail on what this program is? What exactly do you mean by they have to "present a project at the end of the program"? Is it the intention of the program that the students focus on one topic for 5 weeks and present what they come up with at the end?

    It would probably be better for you to have the students work together in small groups. What you want to avoid is having group where some students end up sitting around and not doing much while the more aggressive or motivated students take over and do everything themselves. Even four or five students in a group might be too many.
  8. Jun 4, 2015 #7
    This is a science program for Juniors and Seniors that are either from low income families, and/or soon-to-be first generation college students.
    The director literally told me I can focus on one area of a science or go very broad. I was also told I can do a big project or a few small projects. Now at the end of the program, they will present their work to their fellow students and other teachers. I.E. some students in different intern sites of this program will present a video they compiled that shows the how the upward bound experience was.
  9. Jun 4, 2015 #8
    Scratch that... I was just informed that the smaller group of students I have will need to be treated as employees and I need to work with them towards a project that will be presented at the end of the 5 weeks.
  10. Jun 4, 2015 #9
    One project that I've enjoyed doing with students is essentially a calorimetry experiment, but its feasibility would depend largely on where you are because it could be a fire hazard: Have the students design and build a small wood burning cook stove out of cans and determine its efficiency. Better yet, since it seems you have the time, build one design and then modify it to try and improve the efficiency. If you are interested I'd be happy to provide more details. The kids will have a lot of fun and there is a lot of good science/physics/engineering that can be explored.
  11. Jun 4, 2015 #10
    I definitely can use any and all help!
  12. Jun 4, 2015 #11
    Ok. Assuming that you have a safe place to burn you will need some materials. I would recommend building one yourself. If you don't have the time then do it with the students.

    I would recommend finding a cafeteria or restaurant and asking them if you can go through their recycling dumpster for #10 tin cans. If there is a university cafeteria nearby you'll be able to find plenty (if the staff is nice they might even clean and set some aside for you). Each student should have at least 2 (one for the stove and one for the 'cook pot'). Alternatively, just have students bring in whatever cans they have from home.

    To cut the cans you'll probably want a cordless drill with some metal bits and some tin snips. Hopefully the school has a shop or other program that has these materials. If not, it might be a no-go. Students can share.

    Other materials you might want to get are some hardware cloth (mesh); I recommend 1/4'', metal pipe strapping, perhaps some small bolts and washers, some rawhide gloves (optional, but reduce the risk of cuts), safety goggles, and, of course, some type of fuel.

    The best option for fuel is wood chips. If a facility nearby has a wood chip burner you can probably ask them form some. Otherwise check with a tree service, often times they will just give you some. If this fails you can purchase wood pellets (this time of year? ... maybe not), but those are more difficult to start.

    For the project itself you'll obviously want to cover heat and types of heat transfer. The analysis can be fairly straightforward; Q = mc∆T, but you should probably at least mention latent heat; you'll want to make sure they don't get the water to boil (obviously). Also you'll need to cover what efficiency is and how it will be measured.

    You might need other things to do in 5 weeks. One option that will relate directly to the project is to teach about uncertainty in measurement and how to propagate uncertainties in calculations and how to write a lab report or journal article. If you have stopwatches you could also incorporate the power output of the stove into the analysis. Get them to figure out if the (mean) power is at all related to efficiency.

    Yikes. That seems like a lot to consider and prepare in a week and a half. If this seems too ambitious I can come up with some other ideas.
  13. Jun 4, 2015 #12
    That doesn't seem bad at all. I will have to check to see if i can get access to those things. Might not be able to get a drill though
  14. Jun 4, 2015 #13
    If a drill isn't available there might be some alternative. I bet if you look up 'hobo stove' online you might find some ideas. Let me know if you do.
  15. Jun 4, 2015 #14
    Awesome. Thanks for the feedback
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