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Showing results for tags 'scientific investigations'.
Every year each of my kids does a large scientific investigation, and it is that time of year again. As I did last year , I will write up what we have accomplished each week, so that you can see true scientific inquiry in action. Often people only see the outcome of a scientific investigation, and it always looks so tidy. This is not how science works as you will soon see with my kids' projects. So last year, my older son won the Regional Science Fair and was so excited that he started planning his next project 2 months later! Here is what I wrote up in October: x-post Coming up with an idea. October. Older ds who is in 7th grade. Well, it has been 2 months since the Regional Science Fair, and my ds is already planning his next project. We are studying chemistry this year, so he would really like to do a chemistry project. This is a very difficult thing to do for a few reasons: 1) How does a 12 year old uncover anything new in chemistry? 2) We have no chemical equipment. His first idea was to determine which chemicals made the biggest explosion. Yes, I am sure most of you are smiling. Not really surprising in a 12 year old boy, but not a great idea from the point of view of my insurance. Plus, not really original. The next idea came from his reading on fracking (which unfortunately for me has a different meaning because of watching Battle Star Galactic .) He read an article in Scientific American and was curious as to why the concrete pipes leak underground. So we discussed testing different kinds of concrete for resilience to seismic disturbances. I knew we could get cement for free, and we have lots of different levels of grit for rock tumbling (we had to buy in bulk), which would allow for a quantitative comparison as we know the grit sizes. So we talked about creating different types of concrete and testing it for strength and flexibility. He could have some fun designing some objective ways to smash or shake the concrete, but I was not clear how he could make any tubes. He also was interested in having it set at different temperatures, possibly under water kept at a certain temp with ice cubes etc. Seemed pretty promising, but he just never took to it. His current idea concerns air pollution. He has noticed that one of the longer tunnels in our town is quite smelly. We have to roll up the windows in the car and turn the vent to internal circulation or we are really gassed out. This got him to thinking about what kind of ventilation existed in that tunnel. We also discussed what else affected the air pollution - number of cars, direction the tunnel faces compared to the prevailing wind direction (we live in a very windy town), and the length of the tunnel. Then, he starting thinking about parking decks. We have some smelly ones and some clean ones. Some underground, some above ground. Some with multiple open walls, some with only one open wall. Some with fans, some without. He starting getting excited about building a M.O.D.E.L.... yes , this is my very mathy kid, and he is very motivated to win the math award 2 years in a row. So next up he starts researching how to measure pollution. CO2, lead, CO, etc. He wants to do it himself rather than send the air samples to a lab. He very quickly finds a site that tells him how to build a pump and where to buy the CO2 kits. They are $65 per 10. hummm. I tell him that he has a $200 budget. Given that I spend nothing on lab equipment, it seems like a fair but generous amount. I told him if he plans to spend more, he needs to dip into his $700 winnings from last year's fair. Last year's project cost us $12 for a new ruler when he left it behind + $12 for a poster board. So definitely a money making venture! I told him that we could go to an exhaust testing station and talk to them. I also discussed with him that he does not have to test for ALL the different pollutants. One could be representative. His current question is NOT: Is there pollution in the different parking decks?, but rather creating a model to explain the different pollution levels. So one pollutant could be representative of pollution in general. But he needs to know the *levels* of pollution for this question, not just if the pollutant is found. We also discussed counting cars going through the tunnels during different parts of the day, and counting the number of cars per volume of space in the different parking decks. Good thing he is starting early! Currently, he is very excited about the pollution question. But he needs to see if he can do the work within the budget. I am not so sure. Really depends on the replication he needs. But there is still much more research he needs to do. Scientists do have to work within a budget, so it is not a bad problem to have from the point of view of replicating real science. Ruth in NZ
As some of you might know, for the past 2 years I have written up our scientific investigations week by week, as they occur. This allows people to see science as it happens, rather than just the tidied-up results at the end. Science is messy and unpredictable, as I am sure that this project will demonstrate. I never know going into an investigation how it will turn out. Can we actually study the question? Will we find anything useful or interesting? Will we need to switch projects? So it is a bit of a leap of faith for me to just put the process out there, with no idea of success or failure. But it is very good for all non-scientists to see, because so many ideas go nowhere. So this year, my kids have decided to skip projects. Last year's projects just about did us in, and next year both boys will be old enough to go to the regional fair, so we want to be well rested! :001_smile: My younger boy is interested in doing some sort of plant survey work in the alpine regions of the local Forest Park, so I might be writing up his research in January! (For those of you who are now scratching your heads, we are in the southern hemisphere, so it will be summer.) The project I am going to write up in this thread is a neighborhood kid's project. He is a friend of my boys, and my tutoree for math and science. What makes this project different for me is that I have no knowledge of what he has studied in science as I have only started working with him, AND I have to meet the school's rules and deadlines. Finally, I have to start from scratch in his understanding of scientific methodology because he clearly has no experience in it. So this project will be a very nice contrast to the larger projects that I have done with my boys as last year they were my older's 7th and my younger's 4th science fair projects, so they had a lot of previous experience! I'll post this, and start writing up how we chose a question. Ruth in NZ