Choosing a Topic
Encourage the student to choose a real world topic he or she finds interesting and ask a question on that topic. For example, a student interested in the environment can ask, “How does the diet of earthworms affect them and the soil around them?” An automotive enthusiast may ask, “What type of oil improves mileage?” or “Can I convert a standard car into an alternative fuel vehicle?” The question should be specific enough that they can gather data through an experiment or research.
Creating a Successful Project
Once a question has been asked the student needs to create an experiment to answer it. Create a hypothesis, or a guess, of the answer to the question. Measure data as it occurs to keep accurate records and include notes on any additional observations or variables that may influence the outcome of the experiment. Some questions cannot be answered with an experiment, but require research instead. When doing research projects verify the sources of information are accurate and up to date. Sciences such as genetics, pharmaceuticals and electronics are constantly changing with new discoveries and advances in technology.
Students interested in how people think, interact and react may be interested in determining if hand gestures can be used as an indicator of personality traits such as extroversion. This project requires a questionnaire and series of interviews with high school students. Students complete a questionnaire about their preferences for activities and how they perceive themselves to determine if they are extroverts or introverts. Each student participant is then interviewed with a set of questions that require detailed answers.
During the interview observe the types of hand gestures used by the participant and record how many were made. After completing the interviews compare the number of hand gestures with the answers to the questionnaire to determine if there is any correlation between extrovert personalities and the number of hand gestures used.
Environmental Impact Experiment
Students concerned with environmental impacts may want to investigate if native material such as dirt or gravel can be used in place of sand to help prevent flooding. Sand is the traditional and most effective material used, but is not readily available in all areas.
Choose three materials to test. Fill enough sandbags of each material to build a wall in the center of a small children’s pool. Measure the water in buckets or plastic milk cartons before adding to the pool to determine a specific amount of water to use for each trial. Build the first wall and add the measured amount of water to the pool. Measure the depth of water on both sides of the wall to determine how well the water is being held back by the wall. Repeat with the other materials always using the same amount of water. Compare the results to determine what material is the most effective.