Ideas for Science Projects

  1. Build a solar oven from a pizza box
  2. Build a solar water purifier
  3. Melt ice when the temperature is below freezing
  4. Save energy

Project Idea 1: Build a Solar Oven from a Pizza Box

(Adopted from http://www1.eere.energy.gov/kids/roofus/pizza_box.html with some changes.)

People have used the sun to cook for centuries. Now it is your turn to make a simple solar oven that can be used to warm up cookies.

Materials you will need:

  • A pizza box
  • Some newspaper
  • Tape, scissors, and a pen or pencil
  • Black construction paper
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Aluminum foil
  • A piece of notebook paper
  • A ruler or a wooden dowel or a stick

Step-by-step instruction:

  1. Make sure the pizza box is folded into its box shape and closed.
  2. Put notebook paper on top of the pizza box so that the paper is in the center of the lid and trace its outline on the lid by pen or pencil. Remove the paper.
  3. Carefully cut the two long edges and one of the short edges of the rectangle that you just traced on the lid, forming a flap of cardboard.
  4. Fold the flap back along the uncut edge to form a crease.
  5. Use aluminum foil to wrap the underside face of this flap.  Tape it on the outside so that the foil is held firmly. Try to keep the tape from showing on the foil side.  The aluminum foil will reflect the sunlight into the box.
  6. Open the box and place the piece of black construction paper in so it fits the bottom of the box. This will help to absorb as much sunlight as possible.
  7. Close the box.  Roll up some newspaper, and fit it around the inside edges of the box. This is the insulation that helps hold in the sun’s heat. Make it about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Use tape to hold the newspaper in place if necessary, but only tape it to the bottom of the box, not the lid.
  8. Open the box.  Cut two pieces of plastic wrap an inch larger than the flap opening on the box top. Tape one piece of plastic wrap to the underside of the flap opening. After taping one side, BE SURE TO PULL THE PLASTIC WRAP TIGHT, and tape down all four sides so the plastic is sealed against the box. Then close the box and tape the other piece of plastic wrap to the top of the flap opening. Again, be sure the plastic wrap is tight and tape down all four edges to form a seal. This creates a layer of air as insulation that helps keep the sun’s heat in the box.

All done — Lets give it a try!

On a sunny day, carry a treat you want to warm up and your homemade solar oven outside to a sunny spot.  If it feels cold outside, put a towel or blanket under the box so the bottom stays warm.  Open the box, put the treat in the center, and then close the box.  Now open the flap and turn the box around so the foil is directly facing the sun.  Move the flap up and down and note how it reflects the sunlight. Use a dowel, ruler, or stick to prop up the flap so that it bounces the sunlight into the box.

Wait about a half hour to an hour for your solar oven to cook. Then enjoy your warmed-up treat!

Project Idea 2: Build a Solar Water Purifier

(Adopted from http://www1.eere.energy.gov/education/pdfs/solar_rainmachine.pdf with some changes.)

Salty water such as seawater is usually considered not drinkable.  The process of removing salt and other non-volatile impurities from salt water is called distillation. A solar water purifier uses the greenhouse effect to trap energy from the sun.  The mechanism of solar water purifier also demonstrates the water cycle that naturally occurs on earth: evaporation, condensation and precipitation.

Materials you will need:

  • A big bowl
  • A plastic cup which is 1’’ shorter than sides of the bowl
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Tape or rubber band large enough to go around the bowl
  • Small rock or weight
  • Salty water

Step-by-step instruction:

  1. Put salty water in the bowl.
  2. Place the plastic cup (with no water inside) in the center of the bowl.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and use either tape or rubber band to secure the plastic wrap.  Make sure the plastics warp is tight.
  4. Put the small rock or weight in the center of the plastic wrap.  The extra weight in the center will ensure that the evaporated water will drop into the cup.
  5. Place the bowl under the sun and observe how distilled water start to accumulate inside the plastic cup for every hour or so.
  6. When there is enough water in the plastic up, open the plastic wrap and taste your purified water.
  7. Can you tell whether the water taste differently from tap water?  If so, can you explain why?

Project Idea 3: Melt Ice When Temperature is Below Freezing?

(Adopted from http://www.need.org/needpdf/PriWaterMaker.pdf)

Can you use energy from the sun to melt ice or snow even when temperature is below freezing?

Materials you will need:

  • Three bowls or cups
  • 9 cubes of ice
  • Clear plastic
  • Black Plastic
  • Some tape or rubber band large enough to go around the bowl

Step-by-step instruction:

  1. Put three ice cubes in each bowl.
  2. Leave one bowl uncovered.  Cover one bowl with clear plastic wrap and another with the black plastic.  Use either tape or rubber band to secure the plastic wrap.  Make sure the plastics warp is tight.
  3. Put all three bowls directly under the sun in a cold day, preferably when the temperature is below freezing.
  4. Observe the ice cubes every half an hour and make notes.
  5. Ice cubes in which bowl start melting first and how long does it take for the cubes to melt in each bowl?  Can you explain the results?

Project Idea 4: Save Energy

(Adopted from http://www.nrel.gov/docs/gen/fy01/30928.pdf)

Saving energy is easy and everyone is responsible. By using less energy, you can save energy sources for tomorrow’s use and help to protect our earth.

Activity:  Think about the following actions, does it save energy or waste energy?  Mark your answer.

  1. Turn off light when you leave your room. ______
  2. Turn on the heater instead of wearing a sweater. _____
  3. Take a shower instead of a bath. _____
  4. Keep the TV on when no one is watching. _____
  5. Keep blinds shut and use heater in a cold winter day when it is sunny outside.  _____
  6. Keep blinds shut and use AC in a hot summer day when it is sunny outside. _____
  7. Stand in front of an open refrigerator while you decide what want to get. _____
  8. Open a can with a hand can opener instead an electric can opener. _____

Extended Activity:  Think about which room in your home uses the most amount of energy, kitchen, family room or bedroom?  Then list the changes you can make to save energy in your home.