Science Project Ideas

Every year in my physics class we have a culminating science project due at the end of the year.  This project replaces the old final exam since the students are constantly being tested with TAKS, STAAR, AP, I didn’t want to contribute to yet another useless scantron test.  But Mr. O’Dell, how can you have such low expectations and low standards for your physics class.  I don’t…  Believe me, my kids could do quite well on a final exam, but why?!  I feel, just like any parent or concerned person that teaching to yet another test is setting up your kid for long-term failure in the skill of learning and loving science.

99% of my regular’s physics students will not study science in college, that’s totally fine.  Not everyone needs to go to college, and not everyone needs to major in science.  Somehow the education administration has forgotten this little nugget of common sense.  The 1 kid that does major in science will most likely not major in physics (they would be in AP physics and not enrolled in my class).

I wanted for my students, regardless of their education background or college goals, to at least get one last hurrah from science – I wanted them to go through the process of discovery using the scientific method – in any manner they choose, so long as it is a genuine scientific experiment.  It can be related to anything as long as:

  • the method to carry out the investigation is scientific
  • they acquire non-biased data
  • their project is repeatable by another person
  • they come to a conclusion with a trend in their data, or a reasonable account of why there was no trend
  • it is not overly predictable

]The vast majority of students, even given an entire month to think about a project, still cannot think of a project.  We may have students enrolled in 4 years of required science classes, but the meaning of science does not exist in the majority of students.

Since this is the case, I made a criteria sheet for brainstorming an idea for a project.  The sheet worked to some degree, but most of the time it was I who took their initial interest and developed an entire science experiment out of it.  I wanted to share these ideas and as many details as I can about each one.  Eventually I’d like to share the results as some of these are quite cool and quite unique.

Here are some of the documents I use:

Guide to a getting an idea for your project

Final Project Criteria 2012-2013

Final Project Rubric


Science project list:


aerosol type vs. potato cannon power —
audio apps vs. true notes comparison — various apps claim to be used for tuning, but how accurate are they?  Are the free ones better than the pricey ones?  Apps are compared to various notes on a standard piano and then compared to an electric keyboard.
skin color heat absorption — an african american student of mine came up with this to prove / disprove the myth that darker skin tones absorb more heat than lighter skin tones, and by how much.
volleyball accuracy topspin vs. floater – a floor map will be made of accuracy and precision of various types of volleyball serves.  The trend should yield a useful tool to volleyball coaches and players in training.
fabric heat insulation vs. doped fabric – a control group of similar color fabric tiles is testing for insulation.  Identical fabric tiles are doped with various chemicals to test for improved insulation.
balance challenge – several tests of balance are designed and given to male / female, and varying age groups to test their balance.
wood vs plastic drumstick frequency –
true alto / soprano frequency test using freq app
softball pitches vs. height weight distance hit
wii physics
smokers vs. non smokers CO2 production
swimming speed vs. clothes % increase in speed
competitive behavior alone vs. in a team
mass spectrometer and caffeine
weed killers vs. organic methods
muscle group learns quickest in dance routine
pole vault factors max height
paper color vs. distraction
nerf bullet modification for distance improvement
music vs. study ability in men and women
protecting against oxidation
mouse trap car wheel geometry vs. speed
grass clipping accelerated / decelerated decomposition
bacteria on various objects
helmet protection skateboarding
shooter game physics
electromag field on plant growth
how effective is cracking the window in the heat
factors affecting bread expansion and length, the perfect footlong
soccer vision
meat decomposition
plant height vs.
swimming dives wave distance
household product flammability vs. surface
punching bag collisions