Selecting a Topic
When considering a topic for your science project please keep in mind the following things:
1 - The project must lead to an experiment or experiments. It is not a report.
2 - The project must have multiple trials. One trial does not provide enough data and evidence to draw strong conclusions.
3 - The project must be able to be designed, implemented, and completed by mid-January.


There are many ways to select a topic or research question for your science project.


Observation:

Sometimes researchers begin to experiment because they observe something that forces them to ask a question. For example: Susie Scientist has a tank of guppy fish. Knowing that guppies are live bearers (the fertilized eggs are kept inside of the female guppy and when the eggs hatch, the babies leave the female's body) she observes that her guppies have very few babies. She also notices that a colleague's guppies have many babies. She asks the question, "why don't my guppies have as many babies as my colleague?" She makes more observations and notes that the major difference between her aquarium and her colleague's aquarium is the amount of light that the fish receive each day. She designs an experiment to test her hypothesis: the amount of daily light the fish receive affect the number of babies that her fish produce.

What have you observed that has caused you to ask a question?


Passion:
Sometimes researchers design a project based on their individual passion for a specific interest or topic. A person who has a passion for snowboarding may design an experiment to test which wax provides the least friction and therefore the fastest runs down a mountain. Another person may have a passion for painting and decides to test how the percent of water in a paint affects the intensity of the color in a painting.

What do you have a passion for?



Project Ideas:
There are possible science projects in every interest or observation. This list is a very brief list of some possible science project ideas:

1. Many homes in Maine use hot water baseboard heat as their primary source of warming the house. Water is heated in the tank of a furnace. The hot water is then pumped throughout the house in pipes that run along the walls/floors of the outside of the room along the outer walls. A possible project would be to see if the addition of innocuous dyes, like food dyes, added to the water that is run through the pipes would allow the water to remain hot for a longer period of time. If the water remained warmer longer, less energy would be required to heat the home over the course of a season.
a. The test could be done using standard metal calorimeters. These consist of an outer aluminum can type container, a second/inner aluminum can that would hold the heated water, and an insulated cover that has an opening for a thermometer.
b. The water would be dyed, heated, placed into the calorimeter and the original temperature would be recorded.
c. The water would be allowed to stay undisturbed in the calorimeter and the temperature would be recorded overall several intervals of time.
d. The idea would be to see if the color of the water affects the loss of thermal energy over time.

2. Along the same lines as the experimented outlined above, the experiment could test different innocuous liquids: for example vegetable oil, olive oil, etc to see if these liquids retain heat better than water. If they did, the water in the pipes of the home could be replaced with the liquid and be recycled through the pipes which has the potential to reduce energy costs over a heating season.
a. The test could be done using standard metal calorimeters. These consist of an outer aluminum can type container, a second/inner aluminum can that would hold the heated liquid, and an insulated cover that has an opening for a thermometer.
b. The liquid being tested would be heated, placed into the calorimeter, and the original temperature would be recorded.
c. The liquid would be allowed to stay undisturbed in the calorimeter and the temperature would be recorded over several intervals of time.
d. The idea would be to see if the different liquids tested affect the loss of thermal energy over time.

3. Testing which fabrics retain the most heat. This experiment would test wool, fleece, cotton, etc to see which allows the most retention of heat.
a. The test could again be done using the metal calorimeters.
b. The fabric samples (same mass or same thickness for each sample) would be placed between the outer aluminum container and the inner aluminum container.
c. Hot water would be placed within the inner container.
d. The liquid would be allowed to stay undisturbed in the calorimeter and the temperature would be recorded over several time intervals.
e. The idea would be to determine which fabric allows the least loss of thermal energy over time. Or you could test which would allow the most loss of thermal energy with the idea of keeping cool during exercise or during the summer heat.

4. Using the same principles as outline previously, determine if the color of the insulation affects the ability of the insulation to retain thermal energy. Using different colors of the same insulating material, (many different colors of the same type of wool for example, the) it can be determined if color affects the ability of a material to retain thermal energy.
a. The test could again be done using the metal calorimeters.
b. The different color insulation samples (same mass and same thickness for each sample) would be placed between the outer aluminum container and the inner aluminum container.
c. Hot water would be placed within the inner container.
d. The liquid would be allowed to stay undisturbed in the calorimeter and the temperature would be recorded over several time intervals.
e. The idea would be to determine which color of insulation allows the least loss of thermal energy over time.

5. Determining which materials used on an ice covered sidewalk would allow the most traction and the least slipping could be done during this time of year.
a. Prepare several troughs in the snow at least 6-feet long.
b. Line the trough with plastic
c. Freeze water in the trough to have a path of ice.
d. Cover the ice with the test material.
e. Attach a spring balance to a weight or something like a weighted down shoe.
f. Drag the weight along the path with the spring balance and determine the drag on the weight by looking at the spring balance. The greatest drag will indicate the best material to use to prevent slipping on the ice.

6. Our school is a “one to one” school: one computer per student. Doing a test to determine if taking notes on the computer or taking notes by hand allows the greatest retention of the material could be a very important project.
a. Prepare a short series of information.
b. Present the information to a group of Wiscasset students and have half the group take notes on their laptop and half take notes by writing them.
c. Give each student a brief quiz to see which group does better: the group that took notes on their laptops or the group that hand wrote the notes.

7. Many sports drinks contain a group of chemicals called “electrolytes”. Electrolytes are ions that are essential to muscle contraction and performance. Test these drinks to see which allows the diffusion of the ions into cells the quickest.
a. Using eggs (eggs are the largest cells), remove the shells by soaking the egg overnight in vinegar. The vinegar decalcifies the shell and allows you to gently remove it from the soft and semi-permeable membrane that is just beneath the egg.
b. Gently dry the egg with paper towel.
c. Soak the egg in the energy/sports drink for 30-minutes.
d. Break the membrane of the egg and test the liquid contents of the egg for the presence of the ions and sugars that companies report are important to cell function.
e. Tests are done separately for each ion and are relatively easy. The observation of a precipitate indicates the ion is present.