Archive for the ‘Science Projects’ Category


This year Cosette had a very interesting science project that ended up much differently than we had originally planned.  She wanted to do an investigation that tested the rotations per minute of a toy helicopter’s blades under a variety of conditions.  So, we got the helicopter, researched ways to measure rpm, and started trying to gather data.

We quickly discovered that all of this was easier said than done.  First of all, the helicopter was pretty hard to control.  In addition to that, measuring rpm on a moving object can be tricky.  We were almost ready to give up when I saw a friend of mine post some information about his drone.  He graciously offered to fly his drone if that would help with the project, so we tried it out, experimented with the right kind of tachometer to measure the blades’ rpm, and got the investigation re-worked.

We didn’t completely abandon the helicopter.  We thought of ways to adapt her original project that would be more practical in real-life and gathered data under a variety of conditions with that as well.

So, probably the most important lesson we learned from this project was to thoroughly test an idea before investing a lot of time into a project that may or may not work.

Once we were finally able to collect the data for Cosette’s project, her board and reports came together quite well.  I will include a video of her presentation and a slideshow about her project with this entry.

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As Brock was completing his last A Beka Academy Science Project, Luke was working on his first.  In 7th grade, the students plan a project, but do not actually complete the experiment or make a display.  Then in 8th grade, the students go through the entire process to put together a finished science project.

Luke’s project is kind of hard to describe, and it didn’t work like we had planned.  So, we had to make some modifications as we went along.  His investigation involved transferring static electricity to a Leyden jar with various conditions and measuring the resulting discharge spark.  The first jar that Luke built did not work.  That was our biggest obstacle.  It simply would not consistently discharge making the collection of data nearly impossible.  So after a few days of frustration, we hunted for ideas on how to improve the jar’s design to make it more reliable.  Ultimately, we completely scrapped the original design which required Luke to rethink his tests, hypotheses, etc.  This was a good lesson to go through, however, and Luke was very persistent in getting the project finished.  Now we know that it is a pretty good idea to test a procedure out early in the planning stages of the project just to make sure everything works right….sigh…..

Anyway, we eventually got the data we needed, and Luke got his display made.  Here is a slideshow of his project followed by a video of his oral presentation:

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The Prairie Family is nearing the end of this year’s Science Project Season–yea!  🙂  These projects are good for the kids to do, but they do require a lot of work (and patience).  Most years we will only have two projects, but we were lucky enough this year to have three….  Seniors in A Beka Academy are not required to do a science project, so this is Brock’s last one, and I am pretty sure that he is glad.

Brock’s project worked really well this year.  In fact, this one has gone the smoothest and had the most consistent results of any project that the Prairie Family has done so far.  This project involved measuring and comparing sound levels under a variety of conditions using different insulating materials.  The little sound meter that we used to measure the loudness worked really, really well!  It made gathering the data a simple process.  Brock and I both agree that designing more projects that use this tool would be a good idea for future studies.

Here is a slideshow about Brock’s project followed by a video of his oral presentation describing his experiment:

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Roller Coaster Collage

Cosette had an interesting investigation for her first “real” science project.  She decided to build a model of a roller coaster loop-de-loop and then test a couple of different variables (one at a time).  She first tested how high the initial hill must be to successfully complete the loop, and then she tested different starting points along a set slope.  We all learned some things through this process.  We were all quite surprised that the initial slope must be quite sharp to make the marble complete the loop.  Also, the results were much more consistent than we had expected.  We thought there would be “levels” of completion, but we quickly discovered that the marble either did or did not complete the loops with the different variables mostly 100% of the time.  That made for a not-very-exciting result graph!  😦

John thought of a related project that would extend this project with more interesting results.  He suggested making a U-shaped track with cm marks along the ends.  Using those markings would enable good data to be gathered, such as how high the marble went with different starting points.

Cosette enjoyed making her display.  She loves all things artsy-craftsy, so this was right up her alley.  She did a good job picking coordinating, but not matching, patterned paper that made her display reflect the amusement park theme that she was looking for.

She also did a nice job putting together her oral presentation–I am attaching a video to this entry.

Getting these projects finished is always a major milestone in our academic year.  I am hoping to get a jump-start on next year’s projects this summer.  We’ll see how that goes….

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Trebuchet  Collage

Another year with A Beka Academy means another year of science projects.  John didn’t have to do one for 12th grade, and Luke is in 7th grade, which is the year the students plan a project (for experience) but don’t actually carry it out.  So, that left Brock and Cosette with projects to complete.  Next year will be our first year having three full projects going on at the same time–that should be interesting….

Brock decided to build a trebuchet for this year’s project.  Of course, building such a contraption doesn’t make a science project–the model has to be functional and has to perform measurable tests under varying conditions.  So, Brock chose to carry out three sets of experiments varying (one at a time) the counter weight of the trebuchet, the weight of the projectiles, and the angle of the nail that releases the bag.

To vary the counter weight, Brock simply added or took away weights from Dan’s weight set.  Varying the weight of the projectiles was interesting since they all had to be identical outside of the weight.  Brock opened up identical tennis balls and added bb’s to the inside before sealing the holes.  Doing this gave him a regular ball, one moderately weighted, and one heavily weighted.  The release nail is a little hard to explain, but changing its angle would affect how the trebuchet released the balls.

Each of the sets of experiments had interesting results.  Some were what Brock expected while others were not.  I am adding two videos to this entry.  The first shows how the trebuchet worked, and the second is Brock’s presentation of his project explaining his results.


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John Clock Reaction Collage

John’s science project was….how should I describe it??  Complicated, but interesting!  John chose a chemistry project this year that involved the rate of reaction for the iodine clock reaction and the Briggs-Rauscher reaction.  Basically, he did these experiments varying amounts of chemicals, different temperatures, etc.  It was pretty time-consuming, but John was very diligent and kept plugging away at it until he was finished.  And he got some very good results, so that is always helpful!

So, what exactly are these reactions?  Well, they are pretty cool, I must admit.  The iodine clock reaction mixture goes from clear to purple.  We were testing how long it took for this process to occur under the various conditions.  Here is a video of a trial for that experiment (the color changes at 2:45):

The Briggs-Rauscher experiment was much more complicated to test.  This reaction changes back and forth between a yellowish and a purplish color.  We were counting how many times it oscillated under varying conditions in a three minute time period.  The problem with that is hard to explain, but sometimes it was hard to determine exactly when an oscillation occurred because it was gradual and in different phases in the cup.  Oh well, we did the best we could!  Here is the video of that reaction:

So our season of science projects has reached its conclusion–and I can’t say that I am sad!  LOL!  It’s a good thing that we have this stuff finished, though, because our next phase has already begun.  (More to come on that in the next few entries).  In the mean time, here is a video of John’s presentation and a slideshow of his work:

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Brock Tower Collage

We have survived yet another year of A Beka Academy science projects!  These projects take a lot of work, but the kids gain a lot from the whole process.

This year Brock decided to do a project that dealt with the stability of towers.  He was pretty funny about the whole thing.  When we were first beginning the projects and gathering materials he stated that John’s project needed hydrogen peroxide, iodine, a milliliter of this, a milliliter of that, etc. His materials?  “Legos, dirt, and a bouncy ball! I feel like I am in kindergarten!”

Basically, Brock was testing how much a tower of blocks would move when hit with a ball under various conditions.  The variables he tested were the height of the tower, the angle of the slope, and the types of soil surrounding the base of the tower.  He ran a multitude of trials, and then summarized his data to draw his conclusions.

Here is a video of Brock presenting his project:

This was a pretty good project, and Brock did get some interesting results.  That being said, it always a relief when we reach the end of the science project season!

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