Science fairs give students an opportunity to explore the world around them to learn more and to present those findings. Light is the perfect topic for a science fair project. Light is everywhere. We have natural light from the sun, moon and stars. We have artificial lights in our lamps and gadgets. We use light for so many purposes, yet many students could stand to learn more about it. In other words, light is the perfect science fair topic. Think through a few ideas on this topic and find one that is exciting.
Light and Temperature
There are a variety of temperature-based activities students can do with respect to light and light sources. Elementary projects may include investigating temperature differences in direct sunlight and in the shade. For slightly older children this experiment could compare the differences across the time of day to see whether there is a consistent difference between the two temperatures.
In middle schools students could investigate how the distance from a light source affects temperatures. Also, whether temperature varies based on the color of light is a good question to investigate.
High school-aged students could look at the effects of light across the electromagnetic spectrum, including ultraviolet and infrared lights to determine their effects on temperature.
Light and Vision
Students understand that light is necessary for vision, but a few neat experiments can allow them to explore this idea more.
Young children can explore how light affects our ability to see. Experiments can be done to test an ability to complete a task in various levels of lighting to determine whether the amount of light affects the ability to complete an activity.
High school students may enjoy exploring how light affects vision using strobe lights to determine the ability to perform tasks with strobe lighting. This could be done in a comparison across age groups, where the task is completed in a strobe light setting and again in a normal light setting.
By the middle grades students can begin exploring the connection between the reflection of light and colors. Simple experiments can be done to extract the colors from materials like leaves using chromatography techniques that reveal what colors are present in the pigments. In this way, they can better identify how colors are created in plants.
Refraction--The Bending of Light
Light bends when passing through different substances. Sometimes we notice the bending of the light as a rainbow and sometimes we notice that the light changes direction on its path.
For elementary students, experiments could explore what kinds of substances cause light to refract and form rainbows. Students could use common household items like glass, crystal and jewels, as well as liquids like water, mineral oil, or other clear, safe chemicals like vinegar. By shining a light, they can see whether they can create and measure the conditions that produce a rainbow in each object.
Older students can focus more on the actual bending of light. Using different substances, they can measure refractive indexes.
Older students can see whether density is an indicator of refractive indexes or if changing the temperature of a refractive liquid affects the refraction index.
Light is often measured for its intensity. How intense a light bulb is could have an impact in a variety circumstances.
Young students could simply look for a connection between intensity (Lumens) and temperature using household light bulbs.
Students in middle schools could compare the intensity of light from various comparable light bulbs based on details such as wattage for halogens, incandescent, fluorescent and other bulb types.
Students who can handle more complex equipment could use a spectrophotometer and measure the intensity of light emitted by different burning gases, comparing the presence of different wavelengths of light.
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