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Ninety-nine Science Project Ideas

By Dr. Michael N. Farney

Director of the South Central South Dakota Science and Engineering Fair


This page is for busy teachers to hand out to their students.  Its ideas should excite kids from grades 6-12.  Many commercial devices, kits, and instruments are included; one can order nearly everything on-line for less than $20.00.  I selected the websites and the merchandise based on quality and potential interest.


1.       Astronomy:  Build 3-D paper models of the planets and lots more with online plans.

2.       Astronomy:  Build a low-power scope from Edmund Scientific for $12.95 or do it yourself (with video).

3.       Astronomy:  Build a sundial by again going to 3-D paper models.  Then test it.

4.       Astronomy:  Given the distance to the Sun, calculate its size here or here or here or here.

5.       Astronomy:  Is a harvest moon really super-large?  Take pictures and explain the moon illusion. 

6.       Astronomy:  Photograph meteor trails and star trails.  Try shooting into a hubcap!

7.       Astronomy:  Show how Native American constellations relate to the European ones.

8.       Behavior:  Are band members more interested in mathematics than non-musicians?  Begin here.

9.       Behavior:  Can you tell the sex of a person from looking at pictures of their bare feet?

10.   Behavior:  Do people notice shape or color first on “non-standard” playing cards?

11.   Behavior:  Does aging reduce your night vision?  If you wish to read an in-depth article go here.

12.   Behavior:  How does age affect your reflexes, in particular the time to dribble a ping-pong ball?

13.   Behavior:  Investigate the Stroop Effect.  Reading “red” in blue ink is slower than “red” in red ink.

14.   Behavior:  Which gender do the police arrest more frequently for speeding?

15.   Behavior:  Which gender is more likely to run a stop sign?  Contact us for a full report.

16.   Behavior:  Which state collects the most lottery money per resident?  How can you explain that data?

17.   Biology:  Buy a Tickle Me Plant from Edmund Scientific for $4.95 and explain its weird activities.

18.   Biology:  Buy Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm for $13.99 and record their behavior.  Go here first.

19.   Biology:  Buy Triops Dinosaur Shrimp for $3.99 and report on their life cycle.  Experiments are here.

20.   Biology:  Can an ultraviolet light bulb be used to prevent bread mold?

21.   Biology:  Catch spiders and study them with a $14.95 Spider Catcher from Edmund Scientific.

22.   Biology:  Catch, photograph, and catalog all insects in a square meter of soil with $14.97 Bug Vacuum.

23.   Biology:  Hear a chicken’s heartbeat while it is still within its eggshell.  Contact us for the full report.

24.   Biology:  Identify loads of fossil shark teeth  you can buy for $13.95 or find free in nearby river beds.

25.   Biology:  Is it true that moths prefer an ultraviolet light bulb to bulbs of other colors?

26.   Biology:  Study Butterflies with a Live Butterfly Garden for $19.99.

27.   Biology:  Switch birdseed color in this easy $10.00 feeder and see which color birds prefer.

28.   Botany:  Do earthworms promote plant growth?   Buy worms here.

29.   Botany:  Does the soil from anthills act as a fertilizer?  Do plants grow better next to them?

30.   Botany:  Find a tree stump and analyze its rings.  Here’s another good tree ring site.

31.   Botany:  Grow plants in a rock tumbler or clinostat to simulate zero gravity.  You might try this method.

32.   Botany:  How close can another plant grow to a sweet potato (which poisons the soil)?

33.   Botany:  Is seed weight related to plant weight?  It seems to work for peaches.  See us for more.

34.   Botany:  Is the growth rate of radish seeds affected by temperature?

35.   Botany:  What factors cause orange juice to loose Vitamin C?  Here’s another way to make the test.

36.   Botany:  What happens to a plant as you cover up its leaf area?  (Use many plants.)

37.   Botany:  What percent of various fruits is water?   More here and here..

38.   Botany:  Why and how do trees differ?  How many types are in your area?  Use a camera.

39.   Botany:  Will plants grow better in plain water or in water leached many times through rich soil?

40.   Chemistry:  Can you paint a picture using only Native American pigments?   Here’s another site.

41.   Chemistry:  Find the pH of household liquids with “Cabbage Juice” for $9.95.  Or make you own.

42.   Chemistry:  Grow colorful Rock Candy Crystals for $9.95.  Model the sugar crystal.  Or grow salt.

43.   Chemistry:  How does the dissolving rate of Alka-Seltzer depend on warmth (and other experiments)?

44.   Chemistry:  Separate colors in marker pens or colored drinks with chromatography.

45.   Chemistry:  Use $9.95 goldenrod paper to classify household products as acidic or basic.  Look here.

46.   Chemistry:  Weigh water as it evaporates.  How does adding salt affect the evaporation rate? 

47.   Engineering:  Are wood composites stronger than solid wood?

48.   Engineering:  Build a $6.95 Seltzer-Powered Rocket and make it fly higher it with hot water, and so on.

49.   Engineering:  Build a hovercraft but first look through all the possible plans here.   Look at this one!

50.   Engineering:  Build a pantograph.  Learn more here.

51.   Engineering:  Build a solar oven and cook a whole day’s worth of meals in it.  Explore this site.

52.   Engineering:  Build a Stringless Wonder, Fantastic Rubber Powered Kite for $9.95 and evaluate it.

53.   Engineering:  Build an Ultra-Capacitor Car from a kit for $11.83.

54.   Engineering:  Buy an Electric Plane Launcher for $15.99 and test paper plane designs.

55.   Engineering:  Can polarized light show the stresses in an airplane windows? 

56.   Engineering:  Can the famous drinking bird be made to turn a wheel? Here is how it works.

57.   Engineering:  Do illegal baseball bats cause the ball to travel farther?   Good plans here.

58.   Engineering:  How can you build an electric magnet?  For a great one, click here.  Video is here.

59.   Engineering:  How does the output of a solar cell change with sun angle?

60.   Engineering:  What are the costs of running a small engine on ethanol and other fuels?

61.   Engineering:  Which bridge type is stronger: arch, truss, spanning?  Popsicle bridges here.

62.   Engineering:  Which common building materials are best to insulate a house?  How good are they?

63.   Engineering: Buy an electric motor kit for $4.95.  Build it yourself. Then make better motors.

64.   Forensics:  Test dyes and identify commercial fabrics with a $ 7.75 Multifiber Ribbon. 

65.   Forensics: Compare fingerprints with 50 real FBI Fingerprint Cards for $13.25.

66.   Geology:  Identify minerals in Florescent Rocks Grab Bag for $7.95 with $17.50 UV light. Then go on.

67.   Geology:  Locate earthquakes on a map or a globe. Explain them.   Use the USGS website.

68.   Geology:  Locate local river contamination sites by using Google Earth.

69.   Geology:  Model all 4 volcano types: cinder-cone, shield, composite, and lava domes. 

70.   Math:  Decipher the Babylonian number system.  Use it to read a clay tablet here and here. 

71.   Math:  Describe the number patterns in Pascal’s Triangle.

72.   Math:  How often will two dice roll a particular combination?

73.   Math:  Make a non-round wheel and find a use for it.  More here and lots more here.

74.   Math:  Make your own magic squares and explain how they work.  Try here, or here, or here.

75.   Math:  Multiply number by the clever rods called Napier’s Bones either here or here or here.

76.   Math:  What methods did Native tribes use for counting?  Did they differ between tribes?

77.   Math:  Will spinning a penny rather than tossing it change the odds?  Apparently it is true!

78.   Physics:  Build a cloud chamber and photograph subatomic particles.  See the movie here.

79.   Physics:  Build each one of the six simple machines.  Also look here or here or here.

80.   Physics:  Does heating a permanent magnet diminish its strength?  Can this project be improved?

81.   Physics:  Does the period of a pendulum depend on weight, amplitude, or length?

82.   Physics:  Does the shape of a clay object affect its speed through a tube of glycerin?

83.   Physics:  Explain why a disk rolls downhill faster than a ring.  Commercial products are here and here.   

84.   Physics:  Find the density of small objects with Archimedes Balance for $13.95.

85.   Physics:  Find the speed of sound with a starter pistol and a stopwatch.

86.   Physics:  For a catapult or trebuchet what is the relationship between weight tossed and distance?

87.   Physics:  Use Sun-Art paper ($9.95) to record crystal growth, magnetic fields, etc..

88.   Physics:  Weigh water (or some other liquid).  How does surface area affect its evaporation rate?

89.   Physics:  Which colored water heats up faster in the sun?  For a rapid thermometer, this seems best.

90.   Physics: How does the bounce in golf balls translate into distance? 

91.      Weather:  Build a tornado in a box.  How does water temperature affect its performance?

92.   Weather:  Buy a $10.99 Globe Barometer Glass and use it to predict the weather.

93.   Weather:  Buy a hygrometer  and calibrator and use it to predict the weather.  (Also at Wal-Mart.)

94.   Weather:  Does the drinking bird act as a hygrometer?  A deep explanation is here.

95.      Weather:  Measure rainfall with a $14.95 Professional Rain Gauge.  Use with barometer, hygrometer.

96.      Weather:  Measure snowfall with a $12.95 Snow Gauge.  Use with barometer, hygrometer.

97.   Weather:  Photograph snowflakes; it is tough.  Here’s an expensive way.  Here’s a cheaper one.

98.   Weather:  Photograph the clouds in the sky and identify them on a chart.  Here or here or here.

99.   Weather:  Which of these ancient weather proverbs may be true?