Physics Science Fair Projects Don't Have to Be Scary!

Do physics science fair projects scare you? Well, you don't have to fear them! They're only science fair projects that prove something about our physical universe.

And we've made this physics science fair project simple. If you like, cars and racing, you'll like this one. So without further ado, let's get racing!


Time - Give yourself about three weeks to do this one.

Stuff List

You'll need...

1. Pine wood derby car (or a medium sized toy car)
2. Ramp (pine wood derby ramp, slide, or a long board propped up)
3. Timer
4. Weight (rolls of coins will do nicely)
5. Rubber bands
6. Pencil or pen
7. Paper
8. Graph paper
9. Camera
10. Cardboard for display (three sided)
11. Glue
12. Construction paper
13. Computer (optional)


Preparation

We could just have fun playing with a car. Most of us dream of driving even before we can see over the wheel. So thinking about cars comes natural.

But today we're asking you to do a little more than that. We're asking you to be a scientist too. That's what it takes to create successful physics science fair projects. We need to learn about cars, not just dream about them. So...

...let's research cars. Find out as much about cars as you can. Find out what cars are made of. Which part of the car weighs the most. Why? Where is that part located? Why?

See if you can come up with other ideas about cars. You might want to ask your parents for help. They might have had to work on cars. So they may know a lot more than you think.

The library has lots of books about cars that might be helpful. And, of course, the best way to find information is on the internet. Once again, ask you parents for help. They may be able to point you to some good automobile resources on the web.

That should give you enough information to ask the important question about your physics science fair project...

Does the velocity of the car change if you move the mass?

Or put another way...

Will a car go faster if you put the weight in a different place?

This is a good question because we can try it out in a room in our house. But don't try it yet. We need to answer our important question first!

Let's do that now.

Does the velocity of the car change if you move the mass?

Write down your answer on a piece of paper. Don't change it until you see what the experiment does first. Remember...

...we call this guess our hypothesis. It's the most important part of our project!

Now it's time to get your stuff from the list above. Let's move to the next step.


Procedure

Now comes the fun part...

...let's experiment with our physics science fair project!

Prepare your car. Be careful though. If you're using some kind of model, make sure you follow the directions. A pine wood derby car (sold at many hobby shops) is ideal. Make sure to carefully construct it.

Now put weight on it. Place the load in one place on the car. Make sure to distribute (carefully place) the load evenly so the car remains balanced. You don't want it to tip sideways. Use rubber bands to hold it in place. But don't get the rubber bands near the wheels. They may keep them from spinning freely.

Now place the car at the top of a ramp. You can construct your ramp out of a smooth piece of flat lumber, propped up by a few bricks.

Next hold your car at the top of the ramp. Let it go. Don't push it! Time it to see how long it takes to get to the bottom of the ramp. Make sure to write that time down on a piece of paper. You'll need it later.

If you have trouble timing the car, ask a friend to help you. Or set up a camera and tripod and video the car as it rolls down the slide. When you're ready, go back and watch the video with the seconds display on and count the seconds it takes to make it down to the bottom.

Repeat this experiment at least five times so you can be sure of your results. Write down the times each time you do it.

Now move the load and try it again the same way you did with the first load. Write down your times for each try with this load as well. If you're not sure what to do, the tutorial video below can help...





As you record each try, make sure you note which times go with which kind of load. You'll want them kept separate because you'll need to use this information later.


Process Data

It's time to organize what you've discovered. You'll need to take the five times for each load and average them. You should now have one time for each load you tried. Now, take your averages for each load and copy them neatly in a finalized form onto one graph.

Next you'll want to determine the speed for each car. Measure the ramp in meters (not feet!) You may not have an even number of meters. So use the left over centimeters and convert them into a decimal. For example...

20 meters + 25 centimeters = 20.25 meters

Now make a fraction for each time, putting the length of the ramp on top (numerator) and the average time of each load on the bottom (denominator.) Reduce the fraction as needed. You final result should be your velocity, meters per second (m/s.)

Place this information in a graph as well. If you need any help with graphing click here for our graphing and charting page. Here's a generic graph to give you a little bit of an idea what it should look like. Remember...

It needs to be neat!


Graph!




Make sure to note your highest and lowest results overall. You'll want to find out as much as you can. So don't shortcut any of your results!


Paper

It's time to tell what you've noticed. Physics science fair projects are just experiments without a report. So, we'll write a report about what you saw.

You should include...

1. What you guessed about the loads.
2. What you did with the car and the different loads.
3. Was there any different? If so, which load did the best?
4. If your guess was correct about what the car with different loads would do.

Be careful to obey all the school rules for your physics science fair project report. One paragraph for each of your grade levels will do if you weren't given how long it should be. Be detailed as well. But make it neat.

If you want a little help with you report click here to find great ideas to get you started and get you through!

Let's go to the final step or our physics science fair project...


Presentation

Now you get to make the display!

Carefully put three pieces of cardboard together so it looks like this...




If you want more information about how to put together and arrange displays for your physics science fair project, click here or on the graphic above.

You can buy displays at many retail stores as well. However you do it, make sure you follow science fair rules!

Now, on a piece of paper neatly write your important question and your guess. If you would like, type it. You might get style points!

Now, just like you did your important question, write (or type) your supply list on a separate piece of paper.

Paste your guess, supply list and report onto your display board along with any pictures you might have taken. Make sure you label each so the judges know what is what. Making sure everything looks good is important!

Try playing with some of the display ideas you see. You don't have to use the exact ones we use. Make them fun! Be creative!

And don't forget to name your project at the top of the display board. It's best to use your important question as the title. You may want to purchase stencils to make cutouts of letters. Or you may purchase already made letters at many retail stores.

See? Physics science fair projects aren't so bad...if you know what you're doing. So get out there and try some more physics science fair projects. But...most of all...

Have fun!


Now physics science fair projects aren't so bad!
Click here to try more great projects!

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