Eureka! The Archimedes Balance

Cynthia Houseby: Cynthia House

I sponsor an after school Science Club in a K-5 elementary school. The club is organized into two-week-long sessions, each session focusing on a specific topic. One of this year’s most successful sessions involved the Archimedes Balance from Educational Innovations.

Archimedes Balance Experiment 1:

  • calculators
  • answer sheet, listing the sample materials and their densities
  • fill-in table to record findings:

Students worked in pairs with first and second grade children teamed with a fourth or fifth grade student. We introduced the topic with a brief Power Point biography of Archimedes and his accomplishments, focusing on the story of King Hieron’s crown. Then students practiced determining the density of materials using the Archimedes balance and the samples supplied in the sets (all directions are included in the kit).

The Archimedes Balance relies on Archimedes’ principle which states that a floating object displaces its own weight of fluid.  The balance consists of a graduated cylinder partially filled with water and a tube that fits inside the cylinder and can float in the water.  By placing an object inside the inner tube and measuring the amount of water displaced, you can easily determine the objects weight. Read the rest of this entry »

The Revolution Top Floats – Why?

Marty Sagendorfby:  Martin Sagendorf

We often think we see forces.  However, in reality, we only see the results of forces.  To understand forces we must believe in Newton’s Third Law.  It states that all forces can only exist in opposite pairs and be equal in magnitude.  And… what is very interesting is that Newton’s Third Law does not stipulate that the forces be of the same kind.

Also, by Newton’s Second Law: If the (net) forces are equal, there will be no accelerations (Fnet = ma = 0)… in other words… equal and opposite (net) forces create a state of equilibrium.  An interesting example of equal and opposite (and unlike-type) forces is that exhibited by a combination of opposed magnetic fields within a gravitational (force) field.  These two different (types) of fields interact purely as ‘force fields’ – only their forces matter… not their types.

The Cosmic Magnetic Puzzle exemplifies a combination of such forces: a barbell containing two ‘donut’ magnets supported in mid-air above stationary pairs of magnets – with an additional pair of donut magnets maintaining the horizontal location of the barbell.

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Atomic Penny Vaporizer

Marty Sagendorfby: Martin Sagendorf

Imagine students’ amazement when they actually see sunlight melt a penny with the Atomic Penny Vaporizer!  This demonstration clearly illustrates the vast amount of energy illuminating the Earth’s surface.  In rough numbers: 70% of the Sun’s incident energy on our outer atmosphere is reflected back into space – only about 30% actually gets to the Earth’s surface.  But, as we experience, this is still a substantial quantity of energy.

Fortunately, this energy (I. R. – Visible – U. V.) is rather uniformly distributed over the Earth’s surface –  thus its overall intensity is such that we have a habitable environment.  However, as we all know, we can concentrate some ‘area’ of this energy to increase the ‘energy per area’ (a measure of this is the temperature of the area of concentrated energy).  A common magnifying lens (2-4 in. diameter) will concentrate sufficient energy to burn paper or other objects with a low flash point. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Observation Skills with a Science Journal

Matthew Campbellby:  Matthew Campbell

One of the more important traits a scientist can have is the ability to observe.  Helping our students become better observers can be tricky.  Observation is a soft-skill and can be difficult to teach directly.  In my experience I also find that students tend to rush through labs to obtain the answer quickly.  This desire for speed is contrary to the pace required for careful, precise observation.

My solution for helping students become better observers is the science journal.  The purpose of the science journal is to encourage students to observe the science happening all around them.  The scope of the project allows for careful observations to be made which can then proceed into conclusions and validations of hypotheses. As an added bonus, the journal integrates literacy into the science classroom.  I encourage my students to select topics that appeal to them to increase investment in the project.

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