SCIENCE FAIR IDEAS
The Science Fair Projects don't have to be purely "science". They can be Engineering projects.
For Halverson's classes, they could be biology or chemistry or environmental science but with data collected using some physics or electronics.
NOTE: Doing an impressive project is easy. What you need is DATA. Data can come from measurements that you do or from other sources. To get DATA I can lend you the LabJack computer interfaces and sensor. Or I can lend you the IoLab modules. Altogether this gets you data on voltage, sound, pressure, light, temperature, position, velocity, acceleration, rotation, magnetic field, compass heading. You can get data on just about anything!
New: Analyze data from NASA spacecraft. NASA has made all of the pictures and science data available to the public, to "citizen scientists" to help NASA figure out what's going on in the solar system. To get the data follow this link: https://pds.nasa.gov/ I suggest you pick an object such as a planet or a moon or asteroid and try to figure out as much as possible what is happening to it. Hint: the Juno mission should have a treasure trove of fresh Jupiter data.
Observe partial eclipses of the star Algol. Every three days it changes brightness because of another star passing in front of it. You'll need binoculars and some patience.
Verify the formulas for air resistance, water resistance.
Make a simulation of earthquake that demos the stick-slip motion of two rocks pressed against each other.
I have a home-made seismometer. Set it up and compare its data with the government earthquake data.
Verify the formulas for the speed of mechanical waves in wires or springs. For extra value, verify the eigenvalues (the resonances) of waves in constrained wires or springs.
Use computer code (I have Python resources) that generate sounds. Show how combinations of frequencies can create different voices (guitar sound, trumpet sound...)
Use computer code to generate the Mandelbrot set and physics chaos.
Use temperature sensors to verify whether the advertised kilo calorie counts of foods are true.
Use accurate timing to verify the period of pendulums and/or spring oscillators. (There are some interesting weird things that happen when they are pushed to the limit.)
Use a small telescope to track the motion of Jupiter's moons. You could use the data to verify Kepler's laws. You might use it to measure the speed of light.
Challenging: Use a laser and fast electronics to measure the speed of light.
Measure the speed of sound in water. See how it changes depending on temperature.
I have a bunch of giant magnetic coils from a previous project. They could be used to make a interesting magnetic fields. They can sense VLF from motors, power lines etc. They could be used to make a primitive wireless telegraph.
Math intensive: Make code to predict the location of stars, planets in the sky.
Environmental: I have a sensitive magnetometer. You could survey the magnetic fields in our environment.
Practical: Measure the performance of various batteries. Are cheap batteries worse than more expensive ones? Make measurements and tell us.
Measure g. Is it really 9.81 m/s2?
Make a sonar. (Use speaker/microphone and oscilloscope or computer.)
Make a unique mechanical device using the 3-D printer. Could be electro-mechanical (motors, electromagnets.)
Note that many magnets, motors, switches can be obtained from old microwave ovens. Old sprinkler valves have good electromagnets, as do old washers.
Design and scale model building and measure their resistance to shaking (earthquakes).
Make an art work that is sensor driven. For example it could glow (use LEDs) and change color when it senses someone nearby, or there is some noise.
Make a mobile (look up Alexander Calder mobiles) that incorporates some physics/engineering features.
Make a wind/resonant instrument such as the Blue Man group's crazy instruments. Measure and confirm that the sounds agree with the predictions of physics.
Ideas using the LabJack Digi-TL sensors: Specs here Digi-TL
Measure the heat/cold loss in a house. How much energy is wasted?
Measure temperatures underground. Are the roots of plants getting overheated? (Compare in-ground vs in flowerpots.)
Measure the cooling effect of trees. The heating effect of concrete and streets in our environment.
Measure the heating/cooling effects of clothing, hats, exercise.
Ideas using the ioLab modules: Specs here: ioLab
Specs for the LabJack U3 that we have many of: LabJack U3