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Best Science Projects for High School;
Professional Education Expert
I do not think any list of science toys would be complete without Legos. The Lego Mindstorms NXT system is the defacto standard in the educational world. While there are other more advanced programming and robotics platforms out there, none match the versatility and expandability of Legos. Even though there are many areas where Lego could improve on this product, the best thing I like is the diversity of sensors that you can add on the system. Kids can invent and build working models of their ideas, not just robotics, but also anything that moves and senses the environment. Many science fair projects and even real college laboratories use the NXT system to control their experiments. I think this product appeals to any child that has the time to devote to playing with it. I know many adults who would love to play with it if they only had the time (me!). For parents, make sure to join the local Lego league in your area and the FIRST competition, the ultimate in high school robotics showdowns!
Well, as a toy this one can be used for ill purposes, so I write with a bit of a hesitation. Never point a laser into someone’s eye, or use a laser to distract someone operating machinery. Green lasers are amazing because the human eye is very sensitive to brightness at that wavelength so they appear brighter than similar powered red lasers. Kids enjoy using these at night and they are excellent in pointing out stars. However, there is a lot of science you can do with a bit of glass from a chandelier or drops of water. Kids just love to play with them endlessly. Not to mention making your pet go nuts when you shine it on the floor (be kind to pets, don’t overdo it!).
While my generation grew up with the Apollo flights, this new generation of students is more in tune with the X-Prize and the Space Station. The students I teach love the movie October Sky which chronicles the life of a high school student building rockets. I cannot recommend Estes rockets more strongly. They have a niche in education because of their attention to safety, their superb curriculum materials and their encouragement to students to design and build their own rockets. This kit provides both an easy-to-use rocket and one that you can glue together. You will need to get a launching platform and several engines.
I love this kit. The manufacturers have gone all out to make a fun and educational toy to play with that is at the cutting edge of science. The kit provides a real fuel cell that takes oxygen and hydrogen (that you produce with a solar cell) and combines them to power a small car. It comes all in one package. This toy is definitely for the engineering-minded student. It is complete with an easy-to-use digital meter to measure your power output. I highly recommend this for students who have a keen interest in science.
I have one of these and enjoy the delicate balance needed to maintain the top levitating. It is a true physics toy. The physics is complicated but there are many websites that explain the science behind this toy in down-to-earth terms. The advent of cheap and lightweight neodymium magnets have made toys like this possible. It is a bit of a delicate task to get the weights just right on the top, so make sure to give this to someone with patience. It is well worth the effort to finally get it spinning perfectly and students can dream of this low friction environment for levitating cars of the future.
This collection of parts contains everything you need to construct your own small robots using very elementary ideas. Instructions come from Make Magazine, a very popular magazine among high school students interested in science. These devices use solar cells to power small circuits. Students can learn how to solder and how to engineer mechanically as they build fun toys. I definitely recommend this to kids who like to tinker in the garage. Make sure you have a soldering iron!
I have one of these that I set up in my classroom each year. Kids can watch the butterflies go through complete metamorphosis. It is fun and educational. The butterflies can be released afterward if it is the right season. You do have to time your purchase right because temperature affects them. Students of all ages enjoy this science show and it is a big attention grabber at science conventions.
I have several of these in my classroom and kids never stop playing with them. There is a central electrode protected by glass, which oscillates at a high frequency. The gas inside ionizes and produces wispy patterns that change color near the edge of the sphere. Plasma is often listed as the fourth state of matter. All stars are composed of this. It is good to point out to students that the Universe we see is mainly plasma and that solid, liquid, and gas are rarer forms of matter. Students love it when I light up a fluorescent bulb inches away from the sphere. Definitely a fun toy, many of my students have these at home. Be careful not to break the thin glass and keep metallic objects away from it.
I use this often at science fairs. Two students stand apart and thrust the football projectile down ropes. The speaker inside emits a steady sound that changes pitch as you get to higher speeds. It is easy to hear the difference and it makes a great kinesthetic learning experience for kids. I like to bring it out when we juggle, yo-yo, or do other zany outdoor physics fun. I do recommend this if you have two kids in your home who need some science exercise.
Technically, I suppose this is more a game than a toy, but a student can play this alone and learn quite a bit about reflection. This is a strategic game where each player has a laser (built in to the board) and the pieces have mirrors mounted on them. By carefully moving your pieces you can reflect the laser beam to any point on the board. My students love taking this out to play after school. However, it does have a few drawbacks. There is a lack of quality in the reflections so the total number of reflections is limited. It does make you think about geometry and strategy. I highly recommend this toy.
Wow, the Lego Mindstorms NXT looks like a great robot toy!
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