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  • Oil Producing Algae

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    Grades 6, 7, and 8

    Category – Earth Science

    Main objective:

    This project focuses on the oil content that is produced in different types of algae. This is done by comparing the beading water droplets on the surface of the algae plants. The goal is for the student to test and hypothesize about the oil production in the specific algae plants used. Useful questions to answer can be, “Which algae produces the most oil?”, “How do algae store the oils?”, and “What conditions allow for better oil production?”.

    What you need to know:

    Found in most aquatic environments, algae can grow and thrive no matter the state of the water. Multicellular macroalgae grow in fresh water lakes and ponds as well as in the ocean. Unlike pond algae which can be measured in inches, algae that grow in the ocean can grow as long as 100 feet in length. The long algae that grow in the ocean are also known as giant kelp. There are also microalgae that grow in swamps, bogs, and marshes and are quite small. These algae plants are measured in micrometers.

    Like most plants, algae require sunlight in order to grow. You can refer to the books on photosynthesis to document how plants grow and add your findings to your presentation. Algae, under normal circumstances, do not produce very much oil unless the plant experiences growth stress. This means that something must happen to deprive the plant of their basic growth requirements. The downfall to starving the plant to produce more oil is that the plant will grow less in mass than under normal growing conditions. This means that for the purposes of oil production, more plants will need to be grown.

    When you dry algae in a microwave, the cell walls of the plant are broken down. This allows the oils that are trapped inside the plant to reach the surface. When you place a drop of water on the top of the algae plant, if the water does not sink down into the plant but instead sits on top of the plant in a bead droplet, you know that the oils have all moved up to the surface of the plant.

    Materials needed:

    Algae – (marshes, ponds, swimming pools, swamps, fish tanks)

    Filter paper – (science outlets and the internet)

    Water dropper – (drug store)

    Microwave

    Collection jars

    Notebook

    Directions:

    For the first part of your project, you will want to review and learn why and how algae store their oils.

    Build a hypothesis that allows you to predict which types of algae contain the most oils.

    Collect samples of different algae using your specimen jars. Be sure to collect a little water from each of the sources that the algae are growing in so that your algae will continue to survive during your testing. Do not cross-contaminate your water or algae samples. This is very important. You also want to make certain that you collect both microalgae and macroalgae for your experiment.

    Be sure to document the data. Write down where and under what conditions you collected each algae specimen. Make sure that you note whether the conditions were nutrient starved or had an abundance of light.

    Choose one of your specimens and divide it into two separate samples.

    Using separate pieces of filter paper, place a sample of each specimen on their own piece.

    Let the two samples air dry.

    On low power, heat one of your samples in the microwave for a short period of time. Be careful that it doesn’t burn! What you are looking to do is to bring the oils in the algae to the surface by cracking the cell walls.

    Using your dropper, place one drop of water on the surface of the air dried algae and one drop of water on the surface of the microwave dried algae. Note any differences in what happens to the water droplet. Be sure to record all of your notes.

    Repeat this testing on all of your different samples, recording your observations.

    Take your findings and write your hypothesis. If needed, revise and retest as is necessary.

     

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  • Hot Water Convection

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    This experiment is designed illustrate how hot springs work and where the hot water is coming from.It shows hot water convection very well to the students . Because hot water is being used and to prevent accidents, an adult should always be assisting. (Adult supervision recommended.)

    Supplies You Will Need:

    4 identical, clear, jars
    Hot water
    Cold water
    Blue dye or food coloring
    Red dye or food coloring
    Two index cards (large enough to cover the mouth of the jars)
    An area that is okay to get wet

    Procedure:

    Take all of your materials to the area that is ok to get wet.
    Using cold water from the sink fill two of the jars to the top with cold water. Put blue food coloring into both jars and then slowly add more water until it “bulges” around the rim of the jars.
    Fill the next two jars with hot water from the sink. Put red food coloring in these two jars and slowly add more water to for the bulge as with the blue jar.
    Place the index card on top of one of your red jars, then quickly turn the jar over while holding the index card in place. This should form a seal preventing the water from leaking out.
    Place the upside down jar on top of a blue jar, make sure the mouths of the jar line up perfectly. Then slowly remove the index card from between the two.
    Complete the same process only with the blue jar on top and the red beneath it. Take notice of the difference in the reactions of the water in both sets of jars.

    What You Will See:

    With the red jar on top you should notice that the colored water remains separated, very little blending of the two will occur.

    With the other jar you should notice that the blue water will sink forcing the red water into the top jar. This is because cold water is “heavier” than hot water and is a good illustration of hot water convection.

    This is the same process that happens in hot springs. As the water at the surface cools it flows down into cavities beneath the springs that are filled with hot water. This causes the hot water to be forced to the surface, and results in a self-cycling process that keeps the spring hot at all times.

  • Discovering Blood Type Compatibility

    Basic Blood Types

    Discovering Blood Type Compatibility

    This is a great science project for younger kids, to introduce them to how blood types work. There are four different blood types, and this experiment shows kids that some types are compatible, while others aren’t.
    While supervision will be required in case things get messy, this is an inexpensive and easy project to do.
    Materials List:
    • 16 Cups to put water in
    • Pencil or pen & paper
    • Blue food coloring
    • Red food coloring

    Instructions:

    Put an equal amount of water in each of the 16 cups. This doesn’t have to be a lot of water, but enough to pour some into other cups and still have some that you started with.
    Once all the cups have water, leave four of them with plain water. Add red coloring to four of the cups, blue coloring to four other cups, and add both red and blue coloring in the last four cups to make purple water.
    Make sure your child writes down that the red water represents Type A blood, and that the blue water represents Type B. The purple water will be used to represent Type AB, and the plain water represents Type O.
    Then you start adding some of the water to other cups. In order to keep things organized, it’s probably easiest to start with adding water from an “A” cup into another “A” cup. The color of the water will not change, which means that Type A blood is compatible with Type A for transfusions.
    You will get the same result adding “B” to “B”, “AB” to “AB”, and “O” to “O”. You can either do all of these at once, or stick with each blood type and add it to all the others before moving on to the next.
    Then add an “A” cup to a “B” cup and let your child witness what happens. Since the color of the water changed from blue to purple, they can know that Type A and Type B blood are not compatible for transfusions.
    Repeat these steps with all the different colors, and make sure that your child is making notes on the reactions of all the different “Types.”
    The experiment will end with these results: Type A and Type AB people are the only ones that can have Type A blood. Similarly, Type B and AB people are the only ones who can have Type B blood. Type AB people may have any blood but they can only give blood to other Type AB people. And finally, Type O people can give blood to anyone but they can’t take blood from anyone but another Type O.
    Interested in other things about your body? Did you know that we have a blind spot? Find out more about Blind Spots here.
  • Experimenting with Blind Spots

    Blind Spots are Fascinating

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    The human eye has a “blind spot.” This is a fascinating topic, since it is one of those things that we don’t usually notice as we go about our day to day lives. But at the same time, when we do notice it, it can be a little startling.

    The reason we have this blind spot is because of the “optic disc.” This is where the optic nerve meets your retina. Photoreceptor cells are nonexistent here, which is why images vanish when they hit this spot.

    So if we have a small blind spot on each eye, why do we not have “holes” in our vision? This is because both our eyes work to cover the blind spot of the other, so generally we never even notice. The blind spot experiment shows us why our eyes work correctly..

     

    Finding the Blind Spot

    This is a fun experiment to do just to experience the blind spot experiment and see how it works – or doesn’t work, as the case may be. The easiest way to locate it is to take a piece of paper and draw a square, and then a few inches away, draw a circle. You could also use something like shapes made of construction paper, or stickers. Just be sure both shapes contrast against the paper nicely.

     

     
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    Once you have your two points separated by three or four inches, hold the paper as far out as you can, and close your right eye. Keep your left eye on the circle, and bring the paper closer slowly. At some point, the square will vanish, and you will know you have found the blind spot in that eye. Now you can repeat this process with your other eye, looking at the other shape.

    When the shapes vanished, what you saw instead was the color of the paper. Our brains are marvelously wired to fill in our blind spots in this way. This will work on any color of background, and it will even work on shapes. For example, if you draw two long rectangles that have a break or circle in between them, and you try this experiment again, looking at a shape a for inches to the side, the circle will vanish, and the two rectangles will suddenly be linked.

    Your brain could not “see” the circle, so it just finished the shape it saw around the spot.

    Try this blindspot experiment with your original piece of paper, but this time surround one of the shapes with shapes in a different color. Your brain will fill in this new color!

    While our blind spot isn’t something that affects our daily lives, it is still a fascinating topic, and worth experimenting with. It really shows us how amazing our brains are!

     
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  • Insect Memory Science Experiment

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    Have you ever wondered how bees remember where to find food? Bees don’t have sharp vision like we do but they do see polarized light (this tells them direction based on the suns location). They also recognize patterns both natural and man-made. Some bee keepers will draw a pattern on a new hive so that the bees know which one is theirs (since all the hives look the same from the outside). Knowing that bees recognize patterns and symbols let’s see if you can fool them or if they truly remember.

    What You Need:

    5 large index cards
    5 small dishes (like petri dishes)
    5 zip-lock bags
    1/2 cup sugar
    A permanent marker
    1 cup water

    Procedure:

    On each of the index cards draw a symbol. This can be a shape or number or anything as long as it is bold and noticeable.
    Place the cards inside the zip-lock bags so they do not get ruined outside.
    Set the bags outside in a sunny spot in your yard.
    Place one dish near each symbol.
    Mix up the “nectar” that you will use. To do this you will want to heat the water until it nears the boiling point. This can be done by placing it in the microwave for 60-90 seconds. Now stir the sugar into the water until it all dissolves.


    Place the sugar water in one of your dishes. Fill the other four with regular water.
    Over the next few days watch and see how long it takes the bees to find the dish with sugar water.
    After they have been feeding for a few days move the dish to a different symbol. Take note of the reaction of the bees, how long does it take them to find the right dish again?
    Once they have found it and used it for a couple of days try leaving the dish where it is but switching out the symbol near it. How do the bees react to this?

    You should see a pattern of sorts developing, it will paint a picture of how bees (and other insects) remember where to find food. It will also tell you what they use more, sight or one of their other senses. Here is another experiment that you may like, teling you how insects may be beneficial.

  • Beneficial Insects For Your Garden

    Borage Plant in Bloom

    Beneficial Insects For Your Garden

    The amount of time spent on this project can vary. If you choose to plant your plants from seeds, it will take longer before you can actually begin your project unless you watch from the time your plants sprout. You can also choose to get plants that are already grown and simply transplant them into the garden that you’re watching. The idea here is to attract certain types of insects to your garden that are beneficial to the entire garden.

    Question: When you plant specific plants in your garden, does it increase the number of beneficial insects? Are there certain plants that attract these insects?

    Materials:

    • Insect ID book
    • Tape measure
    • Borage plants – 5
    • Notebook and pen
    • Timer or watch

    Instructions:

    1. Bugs love flowers. Flowers attract insects and many times those insects are beneficial to the garden. Some insects, such as bees, help pollinate crops. Other insects will eat the insects that are trying to eat your crops. So, which insects are good and which ones are bad?
    2. If you place certain plants in your garden, will it increase the good insects? Begin by creating your hypothesis and tell us what you think will happen.
    3. You will want to do this experiment during the spring, summer or early fall. Basically when there are plenty of insects around.
    4. You should begin before adding your plants to the garden. Sit outside and pay attention to what insects are frequenting your garden already. Take note of the species and what they’re doing. You need to identify them and write them down in your notebook. If you have trouble, this is where your insect identification book will come in handy.
    5. Mark off a small section of the garden and do a timed experiment. In a 3’x3′ area on a sunny day, take about 30 minutes to seriously observe what insects enter your sectioned off area. Make sure that you note the time in your notebook because you’ll be doing this again on another day and will want to watch at the same time of day.
    6. Write down the number of insects that you see in that 30 minute period. What type and how many of those insects are in your area? Document it.
    7. Once you’re done doing the timed experiment, plant your borage in that sectioned off area. In this experiment, we are going to plant 5 borage plants that are already in bloom to save time. Make sure that you water them and then leave them alone to adjust to their new environment. This will take about 3 days.
    8. Wait for a day that is as sunny as the first day that you went out to observe. Count the number of insects that enter the plot area beginning at the same time that you observed last time. So if you observed from 12pm to 12:30pm, make sure that you observe at the same time this time too. Are there more insects? Are there less? What kinds of insects are there? Are there any new ones?

    End result:

    The plants that you placed into your garden should have attracted more beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are vital to a well-tended garden. We may water and use plant food, but beneficial insects help to keep the garden healthy by eating the bad insects that will destroy your plants. Some of these insects also help the soil in your garden.

    For example:

    If your garden is full of aphids, you will want to lure more ladybugs into your garden because ladybugs eat aphids. This action will help to bring balance to your garden. Anything that helps to pollinate your flowers is also a beneficial insect. This doesn’t mean that it has to be bees.

  • Using Bread to Show the Importance of Hand Washing

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    (this will show how washing hands can significantly reduce the spread of bacteria)

    Idea Behind the Experiment

    Bacteria is a fact of life. It is all around us every single day. That is why washing our hands is so important. This experiment is designed to use bread (and the speed that it molds to demonstrate this point). Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer will greatly reduce the spread of bacteria in day to day life.

    What you are Going to Need

    4 Slices of white bread (white bread makes the mold growth extremely apparent)
    4 zip lock bags (large enough to hold a single slice)
    Hand Sanitizer
    Rubber gloves
    Anti-bacterial hand soap
    Poster board
    Paper towels

    Procedure

    It is important that you start this experiment with soiled hands, there is no need to get them especially dirty though. Just make sure that you have not washed your hands in a few hours. Or perhaps you could make it a point to handle something such as dirty dishes or something that is touched routinely by other people but not cleaned.

    Using dirty hands, take one of the slices of bread and handle it. Try not to crush the bread but make sure it comes into contact with your hands in multiple spots
    Place it in the zip lock bag and seal it
    Make sure you label the bag as “dirty hands” or something similar
    Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and dry them with clean paper towels.
    Repeat step one making sure to handle the bread thoroughly
    Seal the bag and label it as before
    Next you are going to want to use the hand sanitizer and repeat the process
    Finally, we want to use the rubber gloves. To handle the final piece of bread then to seal it in the zip lock bag

     

    Now you should pin each bag to your poster board. Make sure to label each bag with the date that you are starting your experiment. Over the following days and weeks, you are going to want to monitor your bread slices for mold growth. As soon as you see any mold make sure to label it with the date.

    What to Expect

    Over the course of the experiment (1-2 weeks) you will start to see some seriously gross results. The bread that you handled with dirty hands should mold first and the rate of mold growth will be rapid. In some cases, by the end of the experiment the bread that was touched with dirty hands will be unrecognizable. While the bread that was handled after using some form of disinfecting will mold at a much slower rate. This shows that while the soap and hand sanitizer doesn’t completely eliminate bacterial it greatly reduces the amount present.

    Finally, the bread that was handled with new/sterile rubber gloves will have little to no mold at all. This demonstrates that when bacteria are not present at all the mold growth is significantly reduced.

     

  • Chill Your Drink

    Chill That Drink Fast!

     

    How fast do you think you can get a can of soda to go from warm to cold? Would you believe it can be done in about one minute? It can and here is how you can make a gadget to do just that from simple materials. It is a good idea to have an adult help with this.

    First, gather everything you will need to build the gadget. You will need:

    • A motor (with the mounting screws) taken from a remote control car or something similar
    • A pair of scissors
    • A hot glue gun
    • A plastic ruler
    • A permanent ink marker
    • A lighter
    • A USB cord (an old one like a phone charger will do)
    • The cap from a can of spray paint

    The first step in making your gadget is to use the ruler to measure 3 centimeters from the bottom of the spray paint cap and mark it with the marker. Next, cut the cap where it is marked all the way around the cap so it is as straight as possible.

    Now you are ready to shape your cap so it will grip your can of soda. Place the cap in the top of a soda can (for this, you can use an empty can). Mark the cap where the top of the can is (a flashlight shining down on top of the cap will help you see where to mark). Light the lighter and hold it close enough to the bottom edge of the cap to heat it but not burn it. Heat the cap until the plastic starts to sag. Press the edge of the scissors against the heat-softened plastic so it takes on the shape of the lip of the can. The idea is that the cap will clip onto the top of the soda can.

    It is time to mount the motor to the top of the cap. First mark the center of the cap with the marker. Then put a good glob of hot glue there and put the motor on so when the motor is running, the cap will spin. Now cut off the charging end of the USB cord and strip the ends of the black and red wires. Have an adult solder them onto the motor.

    Now you need a handle to hold while the gadget spins your soda. Place one end of the ruler against the motor mount and mark where the screws need to go. With the scissors, drill holes where the marks are and rock and twist the scissors to make the holes the right size for the screws. Put a blob of hot glue between the screw holes and press the ruler to the motor mount so the holes line up for the screws. Tighten the screws.

    Now you are ready to chill that warm can of soda. Put ice in a bowl deep enough to cover the can of soda and add enough water to let the can spin easily. Clip your can to the gadget and put it in the ice bath so the can is submersed so only the very top of the can isn’t in the ice bath. Plug in the gadget and it will spin the can. You can time it for one or two minutes for an ice cold soda.

     

    As a final note – this is a science site and sometimes the approach might seem a bit on the “round-a-bout’ side.

    So … while you are building your can spinner, you can immerse another hot soda in a bath of ice, water and table salt.  From room temperature at 75F or so, you can have that soda cold enough to drink within 2 – 3 minutes of putting it in the brine bath.

    But it is so much more fun to make something spin with motors no?

    Enjoy!

    If you liked this, perhaps this one will fascinate you: http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/make-your-own-lightning/

  • Which is Faster – Hydroponic or Traditional Farming?

    Growing Strawberries Traditionally

     

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    Growing Strawberries Hydroponically

    During this project, you are going to discover whether hydroponic farming (as seen to the left) is faster than traditional methods using soil (in the above photo).

     

    You may think you already know the answer to this question but you may be surprised by what you find.

     

     

     

     

     

    Experiment Length: 3-6 weeks

    Materials

    • Two standard pots used for planting
    • Bean plant seeds
    • One bag of potting soil
    • 2-4 gallons of distilled water
    • Two peat pellets
    • Two potting nets for hydroponic growing
    • Ruler
    • Notebook/journal
      (Note : both peat pellets and potting nets should be available at a good local gardening shop and are both quite cheap.  A google search on “peat pellets” or “hydroponic potting nets” will also give many examples of where you can get them)

    Procedure

    Prepare two of your pots with the potting soil. Plant your bean seeds approximately ¼ to ½ inch below the surface of the soil. You will want to give the plants plenty of sunlight and water. For the best outcome, make sure to keep your plants in the same place throughout the experiment. Moving the plants from one area to another will create inconsistencies and contaminate your results.

    Prepare your hydroponic seeds by placing the seeds in a peat pellet and saturating them with water.  This will cause them to “puff up”.  Make sure the seeds are covered by a little bit of the peat before you “plant” them.

    Fill the other two pots with distilled water. Place the hydroponic potting nets over the top of the pot (making sure the water touches the netting). Place the peat pellets (with the seeds inside) on the nets.

    Water your soil plants every three to four days, or whenever the soil feels dry. With your hydroponic plants, sprinkle a little water on top of them to prevent the peat pellet from drying out. You will notice as the roots of the plants grown they will drape down into the water. Once this happens sprinkling the peat pellets may be discontinued if you keep the pots full of water.

    Now it is time to analyze, and observe. See which plants are growing the fastest. Use the ruler to record the height of the plant as well as the date of all measurements.

    Finally, you can conclude, which plant grew the fastest, and which reached the greatest heights. Which method do you think would be the best for growing plants.

    If gardening projects or experiments are right up your alley, we’ve got a few more to help you to get growing.  How about  the Seed Germination Experiment?

     

    To see if strawberry plants (like in the main photo) grow faster or better with dirt or hydroponically, you can set up a similar experiment with actual plants.  Set up the test conditions just like you did above with seeds, except this time, you already have roots.  Once they grow, here’s a great site with great recipes on how to eat them!  (They also have a pretty good section on how to grow them in your garden as well).

     

    As a final note, these will help extend the project:

     
                     

     

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  • Density: The Floating, Sinking Orange

    Will the orange float or sink?

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    Have you ever thought about whether an orange would float or sink in water? Doesn’t seem like something that really matters, but testing it will help you learn something about density as well as learning something about oranges you didn’t know before.

    For this experiment, you will need:

    • One orange
    • A container such as a deep bowl
    • Water

    What to do:

    Fill the container with water to about an inch from the top. It needs to be deep enough that the orange will clearly be seen to sink or float.

    Put the orange in the water and make a note of what happens to the orange.

    Remove the rind from the orange and again, put it in the water. Make a note of what the orange does.

     

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    What happened when you put the orange in the water the first time? It floated, right? Then after you removed the rind and put it in the water, that same orange sank, didn’t it? Why would this happen?

    The orange’s rind has a lot of very small pockets of air in it. These pockets are the reason the orange floated the first time. The pockets of air gave the orange rind a low density and thing with low density, like the foam pool noodles are made of, will float. When you removed the rind, the orange lost its low density coat so then it sank when put in water.

    What is density? It is simply how solid an object is. Two things can be the same size but have different densities. One may be heavier because it is more dense. The other may be lighter because it has tiny air pockets that take up space and makes it less dense. It is easy to find many items that are the same size but have different weights. You can test them in water, if they won’t be ruined by water, in the same way you tested the orange.

     

     

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