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Homework Help: Trying to come up with possible topic for physics experiment

  1. Dec 21, 2015 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    This doesn't follow the homework format very well, but I'm sure if I posted it elsewhere it'd be moved here. I'm looking for possible topics for a physics exploration (with experimentation) that has to be appropriate for a higher level physics student in high school.

    I'd like to explore something along the lines of semi-conductors or solid-state physics, or other topic concerning computer hardware, but these are both pretty broad, and I'm having trouble trying to figure out what might be a good research question and experiment for these topics.

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
    I've looked at the Hall Effect, and an experiment on that so far, but it seems like it requires equipment that is far from what my school would have. I've started looking into these topics, but they're far too broad and I don't know enough about them to produce a proper research question yet.

    Any help is appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2015 #2
    When designing an experiment for a high school student it is essential to know what equipment and/or budget the student has available, as well as the time frame of the experiment and the intended purpose.

    Is this a science project for something like an ISEF-affiliated fair? To compete in early 2016 or 2017? Or is it a simpler project in a series that needs to be done in the school year?

    Is a Vernier Labpro/LabQuest or something similar available? What measurement sensors are available? What other instruments? Analog or digital oscilloscope? How fast?

    Usually the topic has to be matched to the available resources, and depending on the resources, a project on the Hall Effect may not be possible. What other topics interest you? Anything in mechanics or astronomy? Can you think of any projects that can be completed with a publicly available data set, or are you committed to performing your own experiment?

    One area that is emerging and accessible to advanced high school students is kinematic analysis of fast events with high speed video. If this has any interest, what is the fastest video camera you can beg, borrow, or buy?

    We've mentored several winning science projects in the physics or related category over the years. Most have been in the areas of ballistics, blast, and rocketry. PM me if these areas are of any interest. We maintain a document of more detailed ideas that we may be able to share.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
  4. Dec 21, 2015 #3
    I was able to get a hold of a spreadsheet with all lab supplies and kits on it, so I made a copy of that here.

    It's for a project for Higher Level (HL) Physics in the International Baccalaureate (IB). I think we'll only have around a week of time to run the actual experiment.

    I do believe we have Vernier stuff, and some computers with LabQuest or whatever the software is. Sensors can be found in the list, but there should be plenty. There is one oscilloscope, not many details on it.

    I'm pretty interested in electricity, we've just started studying nuclear and quantum, both of which I've also found interesting. Mechanics seems a little too simple (at least how I'm thinking about it) and I'm slightly indifferent to astronomy. I can't think of any experiments where I can analyze public data sets, though that is a possibility if nothing else is possible.

    Not sure what this would entail, but I suppose it sounds mildly interesting. What kind of research question would I be answering?

    Not sure if what I'm doing is the same caliber as what you've mentored, but those areas certainly do sound interesting, I used to love model rocketry. I'll send you a PM asking for more details. Thanks a bunch!
  5. Dec 22, 2015 #4
    Original and interesting experiments in nuclear and quantum are always very challenging with equipment available in high school labs. The projects available for high speed video are driven by the frame rate and resolution available. With 20,000+ fps, you can study things like ballistic interactions: forces between bullets and tissue simulants as the bullet penetrates. With 5000+ fps, you can quantify firearm recoil. With 1000+ fps, you can study/quantify forces and torques in play in most competitive sports such as forces and accelerations on the human head in football impacts, force curves on a football, soccer ball, baseball, tennis ball, etc. when interacting with equipment.

    A lot of rocketry can be done if you can assemble Vernier force sensors into a workable force plate to measure rocket motor thrust curves.

    A paper describing our basic technique is here: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0903/0903.1555.pdf

    Once you can measure thrust curves, you can experiment with different home made motor designs, different fuels, different nozzles, or just experiment and see if commercial hobby motors are meeting their published specs. There are lots of hypotheses that can be tested once you can measure rocket motor thrust curves.
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