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How To Get High-Schoolers Involved In Real Science?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the none-of-that-fake-science-stuff dept.

Education 314

Wellington Grey writes "I'm a physics teacher and have been wondering what ways it's possible to get students to participate in or donate to real science projects. I encourage my students to help out with things like Galaxy Zoo (which has just released a new version) and to get them to install BOINC on their personal computers. Do Slashdotters out there have any other suggestions that would be appropriate for the 11-18 age range? Extra credit if you can think of a way that I can track their progress so that I can give them extra credit."

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Ask Thomas Dolby (3, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247539)

I think the answer has something to do with a Poser model, a government mainframe, and a freak electrical storm...

ONE "WORD" (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248281)


Safe science is gay (5, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248709)

Let them use proper explosives, and let them make their own thermites, black powder or napalms. They'll develop an aptitude for chemistry (and perhaps an appreciation of medicine). [] [] []
Let them play with a decently-sized ballista, trebuchet, or onager. They'll learn all about dynamics and ballistics, wind resistance, action-reaction (the onager kicks a bit), and the delivery of kinetic energy via projectile. [] [] []
However, if they combine the explosives with the projectiles, their neighbours will study the law.
[Yes, I had a dangerously mis-spent childhood, and turned into a chemical engineer]

Ask Slashdot (5, Funny)

biocute (936687) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247545)

"I'm a high school student and my physics teacher always comes up with ideas to get us to participate in or donate to real science projects. He even encourages us to help out with things like Galaxy Zoo (which has just released a new version, grrrr, dreadful updates again) and even gets us to install BOINC on our PERSONAL computers. Do Slashdotters out there have any suggestions that would be appropriate to satisfy this 35-year-old physics teacher? Extra credit if you can think of a way that I can fake my progress so that I can get extra credit."

Re:Ask Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247983)

Does this have to be physics specific or just science in general?

Chemistry is easy - just do lots of explosions. They are cheap and easy to do.

For physics, I did a computer gravity simulator for my independent study which was a lot of fun. Other things to do are to watch cartoons and make proper physics problems out of them. For example, Wile E. Coyote is flug off a cliff and takes x seconds to reach ground. Use some video analyzation software to see how fast the cartoonists made "gravity" and then find out the height of the cliff :) Always made for an entertaining class.

Re:Ask Slashdot (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248349)

thats a valid point now that you don't need a ATF license to buy model rocketry motors. Just think what July 4th is going to be like this year now that you can put interesting payloads in that V2 Model you got when you were twelve.

Re:Ask Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248215)

Read Make magazine, there are tons of science ideas and opportunities there.

Re:Ask Slashdot (3, Informative)

Microwave_Safe_Bowl (1483781) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248431)

There is a group called The INSPIRE Project ( that, among other things, makes kits specifically for high school students that enables them to listen to atmospheric phenomena. The kits, actually called VLF Receiver Kits, can be ordered either assembled or not yet assembled. If the kids are to be the ones to put the kits together, you have just tricked them into performing some very basic electrical engineering in addition to learning about what goes on in the Earth's atmosphere. As a board member of INSPIRE, feel free to email the site with any questions, and spread the word!

Citizen Science (1)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247583)

I think the term you are looking for is citizen science [] .

Slashdot says (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247599)

Take pictures of space!

Ionospheric propagation (3, Informative)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247607)

You could have them monitor HF propagation beacons [] to track the effects of the new sunspot Solar Cycle on the ionosphere.

You could have them do balloon launches [] .

We need more (5, Funny)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247633)

Kelly LeBrock.

Re:We need more (1)

Rotund Prickpull (818980) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248067)

Had her. Nothing special. Smells a bit, you know. There. No offence.

Golf clap (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248241)

Very nice reference - obscure; appropriate. Hadn't thought about Weird Science in many years.

Re:We need more (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248653)

I believe the correct quote is "We need more cowbell".

Try successful cases (5, Insightful)

casals (885017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247683)

Have you tried to show them successful stories like this one [] ? High schoolers are more prone to do something that a) has good chances to success and b) has very good chances to make them look good. Show them enough successful projects like "hey, how cool is that, uh?", and you probably will be able to gather even the not-that-geeks.

Red? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247687)

Why is this story red on the front page, is it hot hot hot?

Build a Tesla coil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247701)

or even better: make a survey, check what their are interessed in. crpto is always good. historic cyphers in WWII e.g., one-time-pads (ok, that's math)

Wait, what? (4, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247713)

You want to get students interested in "real science", then as your examples you cite some computer programs? And they learn what from this?

When I was in school, the best science was *always* some sort of physical demonstration. I still remember being in physics class where we calculated the speed that a ball ought to go down a ramp, fly through the air and hit a spot on some paper. I marked an "X", and sure enough, the ball landed on the X (within experimental error).

I also remember being fascinated at my local science museum at a big box with pegs and a bell curve painted on the glass. Every few minutes balls would fall randomly through the pegs, yet fall into the bell curve. [of course, in recent years they got rid of all the cool stuff in favor of "corporate demonstrations" that totally suck, but that's another subject]

Then there were the chemistry experiments... and field trips to the park... you get the idea.

Make science real by making it something physical that students can see/touch/smell.

Re:Wait, what? (3, Informative)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247757)

Oops, I misread his question. I thought he was asking for how to get students interested in science, when he was asking how to get students involved in *helping* science, apparently. Never mind.

Re:Wait, what? (2, Interesting)

colourmyeyes (1028804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247821)

My physics teacher (who was awesome) did an experiment where we hung a bowling ball from the ceiling, then he sat in a chair, pulled the bowling ball back to his face, and let it go. This was to prove that as it swung, the ball lost energy and would not hit him in the nose when it swung back. We videotaped it and though the bowling ball obeyed the laws of physics and did not hit him, the look on his face was priceless.

Anyway, I think the computer-related stuff is alright, but I agree that physical stuff has more impact and will stick in their feeble young minds longer.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247997)

I'm impressed that he passed on the opportunity to goad a student into it.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248015)

Prof. Robinson? A little old man who perpetually put himself in mortal danger with only his knowledge of Physics to defend him? He taught at IPFW, a _community college_ no less!!

Re:Wait, what? (2, Funny)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248049)

When I was in school my physics teacher did the same thing, but he made the mistake of pushing the ball a little.

I heard the next year he used a chair to make the demonstration instead.

Re:Wait, what? (2, Interesting)

Facetious (710885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248545)

One of the best physics demonstrations is to hang a block of wood from a string and shoot it with a .22, then measure how far the block swings. Sadly, this can't be done in schools anymore.

Prepared May Be Better than Involved (4, Informative)

LeafOnTheWind (1066228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247723)

When I was in high school in my chem AP class, my teacher had set it up so that at the end of the year we all had to read a timely chemistry research paper that had been published in a major journal and prepare a presentation on it for the class. This may not be what you want to hear but from what I remember of my chem. AP curriculum, I was grossly underprepared to do any serious research. However, I definitely remember than dealing with both a research subject and the academic publishing style gave a lot of background for my future.

That said, I'm computer science not chemistry, so I guess I don't know how that would have turned out in the long run. Even though I'm not chem, I know that the experience in reading real research papers definitely prepared me for graduate and research coursework in college more than anything else in my time in high school.

That said, my minor is physics, so I do know a little bit about that as well. If you've done electromagnetism/electronics, I would encourage maybe giving your students an electronics project. It was nice to have a little practical lab after all that theory. An infinite field of one ohm resisters is one thing - rewiring your coffee maker with a job server is another (btw if any of your students actually manage to do this, send me an email). That said, many of your students (I was one) may really like theory and Maxwell's equations and vector calculus, so don't make the course too EE based.

The ONLY Sciences In United Gulags Of America (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247743)

are for WAR [] .

Enjoy your new Gulag !!!

Yours In Communism,
Kilgore Trout

Am I the only one who read the title like (2, Funny)

szo (7842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247767)

How To Get High - Schoolers Involved In Real Science?

Re:Am I the only one who read the title like (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248005)

IQ pills would help. Wait, is there such a thing? Are Google and Wikipedia getting into pharmaceuticals?

Funny that... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247769)

I'm a physics student, and I got my *teachers* involved in real science last year in my senior year of high school :P The school was smack-dab next to a prominent research university, so all we had to do was ask. A professor even hired a high school! Professors are always willing to do cool stuff for kids to show off what they do - send a few emails around and see if you get any bites! ^_^

Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (4, Insightful)

ewenix (702589) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247805)

I know I've been out of school for a while, but I believe what you're looking for is called a SCIENCE FAIR.

Re:Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (3, Interesting)

slapout (93640) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248033)

Nope. When I was in school, I liked science, but most kids hated doing science fair projects. I wanted to do projects that were interesting, like show how something worked. But the school imposed the rule that every project had to be based on the idea of answering some question.

Re:Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248137)

That just means you didn't like the rules for that science fair.

Besides your answers the question:"hey, how does this work?"~

Re:Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248261)

I think you misunderstand the difference between science and engineering (or reverse engineering). Don't worry, it's a common error.

Re:Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248641)

Oh, that's easy. Always have the question be: "Why is this an interesting experiment?"

Re:Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248743)

I'm with you. Science fairs are uselessly limited by the venue and students experiences, as well as the primarily solitary work. You need someone to come up with a group/team project which does something cool. These types of projects rarely prove some fundamental science question, but they all use scientific principles (which can be weaved into the activity). For every student that comes up with a neat project, 99 will spend an entire weekend bored, trying to put together a diorama that will get them at least a B for the assignment.

Re:Gee.. How long have you been a physics teacher? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248597)

Yes, because it really is as simple as assigning students a project to "do an elaborate science project on your own within the confines of arbitrary rules and with no useful direction from your teacher."

Given how well that works at spurring student interest, why did the submitter even bother asking?

Great documentary (4, Funny)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247807)

There's a great documentary on a teacher who faced the same challenges and found innovating ways to overcome them. He needed to give his students some projects that would have real-world results that could be measured. In the end, he helped a classroom of very talented kids construct some world-class devices that made breakthroughs in the areas of lasers, inertial guidance, optics, and more.

Very inspiration stuff, I highly recommend watching. Professor J. Hathaway should be commended for his innovative approach to this exact situation. More information on the documentary can be found here: []

Re:Great documentary (1)

AeiwiMaster (20560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248539)

I think you linked to the wrong movie.
The movie you linked to is a comedy.

Explain the science behind "miracles"? (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247811)

How carbon cannot come from water (so-called water-into-wine). How horses can't fly. How seas can't just rise up.

Re:Explain the science behind "miracles"? (0)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248185)

What the hell is it with some people always trying to put down Christianity. We get it you're an atheist. Shut up already you're not contributing to anything (article/discussion/your own argument).

Re:Explain the science behind "miracles"? (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248397)

Sybert42's comment was entirely on-topic, whereas yours was not.

We get it you're bitter that you can't square your faith with your reason. Shut up already.

Re:Explain the science behind "miracles"? (0, Offtopic)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248555)

First how do you know I'm a Christian, I just hate how some people also turn a discussion in that direction (either way). Second how was he on topic, he said "explain science behind "miracles"" Then basically said state that biblical miracles are impossible. Science Teachers need to focus on subjects that are actually provable (evolution, gravity, ...) , you can't prove/disprove something that can't be tested/observed.

Re:Explain the science behind "miracles"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248685)

What the hell is it with some people always trying to put down Christianity. We get it you're an atheist. Shut up already you're not contributing to anything (article/discussion/your own argument).

The people who make comments that offend you fall into two categories: Those who enjoy seeing you (over)react, and those who believe that they are contributing to the discussion by being funny or insightful.

Your hypersensitivity only feeds trolls. Yelling at people to shut up makes you look like one. Cursing in every sentence almost guarantees that the post you are responding to is funnier and more insightful then the content you are responding to, no matter how unfunny or insightful it actually is.

Re:Explain the science behind "miracles"? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248439)

Ironically, that's exactly why those that believe they happened believe they are miracles. Because they "can't" happen...

FIRST Robotics (2, Informative)

wirelessjb (806759) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247861)

Form a FIRST robotics [] team. One of their goals is to get a FIRST team in every high school.

Re:FIRST Robotics (1)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247927)

I strongly Concur! A first robotics team. If not, there are a ton of other FIRST teams, from the Jr. Lego League (7 year olds I beleive) way on up. The do Lego leagues, Vex leagues, and the collosal ones for the "First Robotics League".

It doesn't matter if your a high school, or an elementary school Brownie troupe - there's a league for you!

Check it out!

Re:FIRST Robotics (1)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248017)

Team 675 represent! My high school's robotics team was equivalent to any other school's football team. If it hadn't been for that, school would've been another order of magnitude of suckage.

Why? (1)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247865)

I want my airbags tested by an enthusiastic teenager, not some beaten down engineer with years of backbreaking experience.

All they need is the desire to succeed, in order to do bridge building or aeronautical design. Surgery too.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247931)

I want my airbags tested by an enthusiastic teenager

I'm more enthusiastic about testing teenagers' airbags...

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247951)

Thanks, asshole.

Get them to learn something new. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247889)

The problem with high school science is that it is learning what has already been learned. You should try some experiments that you yourself and the rest of the world doesn't know what the outcome will be. So you have them run the experiments document them and try to get it published.

Re:Get them to learn something new. (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248053)

In high school was convinced I could build a flying saucer just from a magazine article. The only thing I was missing was a terawatt laser. Don't aim too low. That being said, I also thought that the COBOL statement MOVE INVENTORY-IN TO INVENTORY-OUT involved robotics.

Re:Get them to learn something new. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248445)

Don't aim too low.

Especially with that terawatt laser. :)

Re:Get them to learn something new. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248107)

Care to make some suggestions about experiments that will have unknown results but don't require exotic materials or something like a particle accelerator or DNA sequencing equipment that a high school is unlikely to have?

Re:Get them to learn something new. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248207)

No I am an MBA I come up with the big picture it is up to others to get the details.

Re:Get them to learn something new. (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248677)

My wife's an elementary school teacher, and I've been toying with an idea a science lesson (or series of lessons) for her class: you create an artificial system based to one degree or another on natural systems that have already been dealt with by science, then present it to the kids and task them with finding things out about it from what they can sense.

The point of all this is to have the kids do all the major parts of real science, rather than just data collection or setting up some pre-determined experiment or running a technology demonstration. Those things have their place, but I think it'd be valuable for the kids to see what actual science is, and to have to reason through and struggle with their problem to solve it, or at the very least research and apply the methods that were devised to tackle the real-life version of the problem.

The only one I've come up with so far (and I haven't really developed it) is to put a spot on the floor in a gym or some other big space, and have that be the kids' "home planet", where they will stand to take measurements. Then, stick dots on stands some distance out, representing their sun and other celestial bodies. Move these around at set intervals (possibly over several days) to represent the passage of time, and have the kids determine things like the distance of these bodies from theirs, etc.

The same thing could be done at a higher difficulty level (but with potential for more learning, and with higher fidelity to the real-life problems) using dots projected on a sheet across the room from them.

I'm hoping to come up with some way to have them make their own instruments, too.

Other lessons with the same basic premise could be made even more abstract from reality, to make them easier, or have physical laws modified to make truly fictional and alien systems (higher difficulty).

Someone has to have done something like this before, but I haven't been able to find anything. Seems like a good alternative to finding honest-to-god real cutting-edge science for them to do, which I'd imagine is difficult to impossible (certainly would be for me) and is potentially a bit more interesting than many of the small-scale experiments they can do in a classroom (which, again, often turn in to scripted programs or technology demonstrations anyway)

Extra Credit? (1)

NickyGotz22 (1427691) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247903)

As im sure your student will ask, what will I get for this "Extra Credit" and is it exchangeable for cash?

LOL LOL LOL (0, Troll)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247937)



Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248271)


Get a boinc team going (1)

pavelthesecond (1180489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247953)

Get them to join your team on Boinc and see how far up you can climb in rankings. Also, maybe give credit for students that earn most boinc credits?

motivation (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27247963)

If you want to motivate kids to learn computer science, show them that the computer can locate porn.

If you want to motivate kids to learn chemistry, show them how to make meth.

By the way, I am willing to consult for your educational system. My rates are quite reasonable.

HTINK / R&Diy / makenyc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27247975)

There is a new group in NYC, htink ( with a charter to assist in exactly this kind of thing. We recently had our first major event that helped 40 people bootstrap on electronics by providing freeduino build kits (an arduino clone) and then 2 workshops using the arduinos to run electrical components to produce pretty lights.

We have found through makenyc ( that people learn best when:

1) They are in a team of 3-5 people
2) They feel like there is little or no competition
3) They know that on completion of the project, they will have something to take home.

For makenyc for instance, our recent project of building boats and racing them taught composite building techniques, hydrodynamic concepts, and participants left with a practical feel for how different boat designs and materials work.

-Eric Moore -

How? (2, Insightful)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248001)

Let them blow up stuff. Really. They still may not like science afterward, but they'll have fun and it will weed out the stupid.

Re:How? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248617)

There may still be some videos on YouTube of a chemistry lecture series done by the late Dr. John Salthouse from the University of Manchester. He ran a series of lectures which demonstrated all kinds of ways to blow things up. Liquid oxygen on rich tea biscuits (a UK cookie) was one of his favourites. Igniting steel wool with a 9v battery was another. There might be something that could be used in a high school that would be impressive enough and still legal.

Model Rocketry (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248073)

I did a rocketry project one year in physics and found out later that my teacher included it in his curriculum every year thereafter.

Re:Model Rocketry - TARC (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248435) []

It's an annual competition, and it geared towards getting 11-18 year olds into aerospace sciences. Many vendors in the model rocketry business give discounts to TARC teams, including building supplies, engines, design software, and flight electronics. There's a whole range of participation from the most simple to very complex. There may even be a local rocketeer, NAR ( section, or Tripoli ( prefecture close by who can help with the technical details. Membership in one of the national clubs brings a 1M+ insurance policy and a helpful intro magazine.

There's all sorts of ways to gauge progress, and lots of intermediate steps that can be used for credit (calc the launch profile by hand; code a basic simulator; determine Isp of the engines you use; design the rocket with cp and cg calcs; design a shock mount and test it). The involvement can be quite wide if you want to involve lots of disciplines -chemistry, physics, history are easy ones, but you can grab english if you add Vernesque literature, biology if you want to discuss spaceflight limitations, government if you want to get in to political treaties and regulation.

There was a program in my high school (3, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248081)

When I was in high school, there was some kind of pilot program that I participated in where we helped do actual scientific research.

Now I have no idea how they set it up or whether our work was ever actually taken seriously by anyone, since I was just a student at the time. I didn't have insight into that sort of thing. But the setup was that the teacher was put in touch with an organization that did research regarding weather patterns. We were given access to collect remote data from various weather stations, and even helped set up a few weather stations ourselves.

So at the beginning of the year, the organization and the teacher worked out some projects which involved a fair amount of grunt work and not a lot of expertise (i.e. something a group of students might have some hope of doing) but that might possibly be helpful to the organization (at least supposedly). We were given a few options of different questions we might pursue, and then started collecting data under the supervision of the teacher, who I believe was something of a meteorologist to begin with.

After a semester or year, whichever it was, we tried to pull together everything we'd done all year, analyze the data, and come up with a report to send to this organization, attempting to answer the question they asked us to research.

Looking back, I would be very surprised if our work was at all useful to anyone. In fact, I have no doubt that the report very quickly found its way into the circular file, though they may have kept some of the data we collected for their own purposes. But at the time, that really didn't matter. It was kind of thrilling anyway.

I don't think it was thrilling because of the science itself. Weather was far less interesting to me than something like relativity or quantum mechanics. What was thrilling about it was:

  1. We were trying to find an actual answer to a question where no one knew the answer. This wasn't one of those experiments where they have you mix NaOH and HCl and at the end the teacher tells you that the correct answer was "you made salt water". It was something where the teacher himself couldn't say what we were going to find before we started.
  2. It was (theoretically) actually useful research. We weren't just spinning our wheels doing busy work. Most of the time, me and my friends would make a bond fire at the end of each school year and throw all of our papers and homework on it because none of that stuff mattered or meant anything. But with this program, we were given the impression that the report would be stored someplace as real research that might actually be useful to someone at some point.

Cross disciplinary approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248089)

Show them how to brew up some explosives. Extra bonus points if they use them to bomb Federal buildings. With that approach you combine science and government. Your colleagues will love you for fostering a cross discplinary approach to education.

Adam Savage's View (3, Interesting)

Nos. (179609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248109)

Adam Savage (from Mythbusters), wrote an article [] in Popular Mechanics a few months ago talking about science the US education system.

Start much earlier (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248115)

I have been thinking about this and have realized that I grew up with science and math being pushed. Today, it is legal, Liberal Arts, and business "real world" garbage that is pushed. Our society needs to go back to the 40's, 50's, and 60's when kids learned science/math in a real fashion.

I have also thought about the fact that we had real science kits. Over the last 8 years, we have been turned into a nation of cheerleaders and flag wavers (literally). We need to get past this fear garbage and bring back science kits. That includes chemistry, electronics, etc.

Re:Start much earlier (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248279)

I hate the idea that everyone is cut out for science, math, or even graduation. Even in your idealized 50's (which is fiction) there was no shortage of drop-outs, brain dead curriculum, cheating, home economics, etc.

The direction the modern world has taken is for the best. There are tons of electronics kits out there and those who want them can get them. There's tons of great programs like FIRST robotics. Computer Science is alive and well. Math is doing fine, thanks for asking. Those who care will find their way to them.

Dont blame school because 50% of humanity is mostly ignorant dullards. They will eventually find their way into low level bureaucratic positions, government jobs, or manual labor. Schools cant teach character, drive, compassion, or smarts.

What people who idealize the past are afraid of is a society that is actually a meritocracy. Sorry, but its here and its not going away. Dont blame society because your son is an idiot.

Re:Start much earlier (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248731)

Let me guess, you are a product of the current generation.

First, my 2 y.o. is VERY advanced for his age. The fact that you would take potshots at a child speaks a lot about you and your upbringing. Basically, you are a coward.

Second, the 50's REQUIRED ALL STUDENTS TO TAKE A CERTAIN LEVEL. Yes, there were drop outs. But it was to support the family, not because the kids were lazy. In addition, even back then, the schools PUSHED excellence and rewarded those teachers that pushed it.Now, the unions put all teachers on same level. There is NO WHERE the diversity in electronics, electricity, chem, or even physics kits that we had back in the 60's and 70's, let alone even in the 80's. And when I see what has happened to chem kits over the last 8 years, I am disgusted. Math is doing fine? You kidding? I had algebra back in 8th grade and college Calc in high school sophomore year. Most of the kids in my school had algebra as sophomores. NOW, kids are lucky to exit high school with algebra. Up to par? Give me a break.

Finally, as to competition, there was plenty of competition through time. In fact, to be honest, I would say that there is less competition today then ever before. The reason is that nations such as China and India have fixed their money against dollars (ultimately all western currencies) and pull jobs away predicated on low costs. If it was really competitive, the world would handle things in similar fashion as the west does; open borders and freely traded money. The west is not fully open, but more than most will admit.

How about Foldit? (1)

modemboy (233342) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248127)

There is a 3d protein folding game called Foldit that would be appropriate: []

It is an experiment to see if human problem and puzzle solving can be superior in ways to the existing protein folding projects like Rosetta@Home, Folding@home, etc.
But besides that you get to learn in a visual way about proteins and solve real problems.

Or you could not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248131)

If you want them to actually learn something and apply themselves, recommend interactive science software like Fold It ( Otherwise, how about not encouraging them to waste so much power.

Or at least have a classroom discussion on the relative merits of using things like BOINC, vs the fossil fuels that ultimately power them. Ethics in science is virtually untouched in the schools I've attended.

Well Duh (1)

JumpDrive (1437895) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248167)

Show them a salary survey for Scientists and Engineers.
Compare these salaries to the ones that are obtained working at Mac Donalds.
Don't mention MBA salaries.

And of course.. (1)

bADlOGIN (133391) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248387)

Don't show them all the bad offshore outsourcing news either...

Re:Well Duh (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248659)

But don't show them the success rate for graduates applying for science jobs

Real Science (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248177)

I've always been interested in Real Science. How do I code up my own perfect, obedient, all-powerful chick with great tits and a great ass?

My high school... (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248181)

At my high school there was a normal Physics class, but a separate after school lab. Our teacher lured us in with free computers, and challenged us with experiments while we were there. The lab has oscilloscopes, a/d converters, lasers, electronics - basically a physics funhouse.

Here you go (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248189)

have them build a wiki for the express purpose of getting science information being used in high schools all around the world.
Break it up in a manner that looks at each topic scientifically, and easy enough to read for the grade
That way they need to learn about how science works.

Done correctly, and kids could be adding there own experiment and finding things they like in science for years to come.
In fact, it could be used to generate a curriculum for science classes..a FREE curriculum.
Freshmen could be tasked with picking a subject and fact checking it. A very powerful skill.

This could improve US high school dramatically, and you could start it.

3 step solution (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248237)

Step 1: have them sign a statement to the effect that they donate their body to science
Step 2: shoot them
Step 3: if necessary, shoot them again

Mission accomplished!

Re:3 step solution (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248481)

Please disregard this advice. Bullets do a lot of damage to otherwise-useful organs.

Scientific Progress Goes "BOINC"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248255)

Yeah... I got nothing.

Re:Scientific Progress Goes "BOINC"? (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248593)

Damn, you beat me to it - that was the very first thing I thought of when I RTFA.

Prime numbers (1)

Mini-Geek (915324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248305)

This is a bit more mathematics than general science, but I'd suggest GIMPS [] for a chance to find a huge prime or, if they're more interested in actually finding a prime than searching for an enormous one, I'd suggest No Prime Left Behind (NPLB) [] .

You are teaching them science is boring. Stop it! (5, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248317)

You are teaching them science is boring. Stop it!

BOINC is interesting if your machine finds the aliens, and actually told you it did.

Galaxy Zoo is for when there is no fresh paint to watch dry.

In my physics classes in high school we DID things, and then we explained the math behind them, and why that was physics. Most interesting physics demonstrations involve statics, harmonic oscillation, analytical mechanics - physical motion - or at least the interesting ones do.

Sometimes we'd just start the week with letting people ask questions about things that made them curious that might be related to physics.

Here's a list of projects we did, and which your students could do:

- build bridges out of balsa wood to demonstrate statics principles and the ability to bear loads (by loading them up until they break)
- build water balloon catapults and see who throws the balloons farthest
- build ping-pong ball alcohol canons
- launch model rockets, preferably with instrument payloads
- build hover crafts using vacuum cleaner motors and race them down the hallway past the principals office
- build a Focault's pendulum to demonstrate rotation of the earth
- put a bowing ball on the end of a rope and show it doesn't smack you in the face because you let it go and it doesn't get energy added to the system on its way back
- demonstrate the coefficient of sliding friction with a triangle block, a square block with a hile drilled through it, some twine tied through the hole, and a fishing scale
- build a model roller coaster
- build a tesla coil and use it to shoot aluminum rings cut from the ends of pipes up in the air
- build a blower box with an orange traffic cone glued on top and float a ball there to demonstrate Bernoulli's principle
- dig out the switch/relay/light boxes from the 1960's classes and wire them all together to build an adder
- use a Van de Graff generator to make people's hair stand out straight from their heads
- show them a Newton's Cradle execu-toy
- put grapes in a microwave oven to demonstrate plasmas
- make little boats with wedges in their backs, stick pieces of soap there, and race them to demonstrate surface tension
- spin buckets of water without the water falling out
- shock people with Leyden jars
- build a Wimshurst generator
- build a Sterling cycle engine with a bicycle wheel and rubber bands

And that is just stuff we DID, off the top of my head, 20+ years ago -- stuff I still REMEMBER to this day, in my day job as a SCIENTIST -- because I had a great physics teacher in High School.

-- Terry

Re:You are teaching them science is boring. Stop i (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248513)

use a Van de Graff generator to make people's hair stand out straight from their heads

My physics teacher didn't have hair, so we used the Van de Graff generator to make sparks jump from my finger to his head. Much more fun...

Three words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248389)

"Science Friday Videos".

They do a great job of explaining.

protein folding puzzle video game (1)

pplusk (1475947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248411)

Have them play a puzzle game [] that solves protein folding problems that can't be solved by computer algorithms. []

Duh: Just teach them the basics: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248415)

the DIY physics of how to create life, food, fire, weapons, mobility, money, sanctuary, security and how to hack anon free Wi-Fi...
The will love you their everlasting lives, forever!!!

beware of real science (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248491)

The first bit of real science I was involved in, as were most of the science people I know, involved cleaning up after the the real real scientists. The as time progressed I was allowed to do other exciting tasks such as putting lugging and putting together equipment, and sitting next to a machine making sure it was working correctly and collecting data. Other real scientists I know weighed hundred of small rocks, or went to the library and copied dozens of articles. In other words, if you want to get students involved in real science, try to get them to a real lab as gophers. This is the same for students who wants to do real art, or real business. They will hear genuine chatter, see genuine methodology, and learn from genuine mistakes. If the find this boring, they will learn that science is not for them. I myself helped in a lab as a small tyke and thought it was the most wonderful place in the world. Summer interns or courses are available for most of that age range at many universities.

But that may not be answer wanted. Real science involves curious observation of something that does not comply with known assumption, systematic study to verify the validity of the observation, and, if valid, further observations to relate the disparate fact to the broader laws, resulting in modified or restructured laws. So to do real science all a student has to do is go out into the world, write down things he or she does not understand, and the research the topic until some degree of understanding emerges. Extra credit will of course be given for any observations made, as long as the description is detailed and accurate. In science observation is half the battle, that is why it was so important for scientists to learn how to draw. More extra credit is given for real research using secondary sources, and then primary experimentation. For an 11 year old, the question would be why does the hot water run out. For a older girl, why does some makeup make me break out. Perhaps a new driver might want to know why we have school zones.

This may not be an answer either. So we have applied science where we take emerging technologies and use them in practice to help establish validity and create new stuff, or to find new phenomenon. This is what the question seems to be alluding to. For instance, so cleaver person realized that we would see a drop in light when a planet passes in front of the sun. Know any scientist can apply that insight to postulate new planets. We have the technology to look for non-random signals from space that we would postulate indicate life forms. We can take accessible robotics to create new structures. The galaxy zoo is fun because it teaches kids organization. Other examples of this are organizations that over a few years has kids build suborbital rockets, or design and build other projects. These tend to be sexy and attract those that want something they can hold in their hands.

Science is also about becoming an expert in a field. An 11 year old that knows everything about dinosaurs, or galaxies has experienced the joy of being an expert. A senior who can work through newtons laws or work in vapour pressure tables has experienced such joy. One thing we can do as teachers, which is seldom emphasized, is allow a student to delve deeply into a single area and become an expert. Like the middle school student who has learned dinosaurs, the knowledge may never be applied to a real problem, but the experience of learning, developing, and categorizing the knowledge is important in itself.

Build pollution detectors (2, Informative)

anphilip (737117) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248493)

GPS chips, arduinos, and sensors that can detect pollution are cheap. [] Get students to create a mash-up map of their local environmental pollution hotspots by wearing a portable detector around.

Research in Labs for the Future Scientists (1)

vortex2.71 (802986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248527)

I think that while the average student should just learn the science as best they can. There are often good research opportunities for the superstars. Most university and industry labs would be happy to mentor smart high school students in research projects. There are lots of summer programs set up for high school students to do research. Simply search for them in your locality or consider contacting local universities and companies doing research. They need to be willing to do some grunt work in exchange for the experience, though. Its worth noting that many of these pay wages that are much better than the average highschooler usually gets. Its still worthwhile to the company because $10 per hour is still a lot less than the $25 an hour that most postdocs get or $50 an hour that professionals get.

Science in the real world is NOT that interesting (4, Funny)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248551)

It mostly involves attending meetings to try and get funding for your next year, or your research students (they're the people who actually *do* the work) or that piece of equipment you want/need. To do this you have to sell your case and make it appear better, more cost-effective, likely to bring credit, than all the other scientists who are after the same money and are therefore trying to discredit your proposal.

When you're not doing that, you are desperately trying to find a new angle on old data to write a paper for publication. You need to do this in order to keep your reputation (and therefore pay and ability to get funding) hot. Once written, you'll spend more time trying to get it published somewhere, or peer-reviewing some other guy's paper.

Almost never will you get into the lab, and even when you do most of your time will be spent setting up, calibrating, tweaking, debugging and modifying your equipment. The chances of you making a discovery that will be named after you are infinitesimally small, as all the good ones are already taken. Even then, you'll probably be dead before anyone recognises the contribution you have made - or the true value of your work.

You best bet, if you want your children to become successful scientists, is to teach them how to stay awake in meetings, diss their colleagues while appearing to be friendly, engaging in office politics, learning to recognise who to scmooze and kiss up to and marketing old ideas with a new spin - every year for the rest of their careers.

Hey teacher, leave them kids alone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248557)

Just teach the the basics of science eg physics. Leave research projects to those who have their own original ideas (like the weather balloon experiment) or those on the cutting edge of science. Too much research done in science is bs to pad resumes and academic careers. Besides research is extremely boring (unless you are the PI).

Blow shit up (1)

Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248561)

Seriously, blow shit up. NOTHING gets a bored teenager more interested in science of any kind than an explosion.

Don't worry about the smart kids, unless - like me - they figure out how to make something like silver acetelide, con the lab assistant into handing out the needed chemicals, and then sprinkle the aforementioned unstable compound all over your desk.

If you really want to push the physics aspect of it, start something like a model rocketry club/group. Hell, you can even start out with a 2-litre coke bottle with water and pumping air into it. There's a lot of science in doing something as simple as that and seeing how high the bottle flies.

Ok, I'll bite. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27248581)

  • Great Egg Race projects. Easy to establish a problem in physics and engineering that students can solve that are hard enough to be challenging and which do something that is obviously interesting.
  • Astronomy. There's plenty of Open Source code for creating images for amateur astronomy. What there isn't (at least, as far as I know) is any software for doing visible light interferometry. Set up a cluster of telescopes (they're cheap enough) and get the students to link them together as a single interferometry array. Also gives them something to show on a website, as space pics are (as others have noted) always popular.
  • Chaos Theory. Always good for some fun. Lorenz Waterwheels can be built for real, they are not just theoretical. But can you take a specific mathematical model and translate it into the corresponding physical model?
  • Archaic physics. Also always good for some fun. It turns out to be quite difficult to build a simple A-Frame and pulley system to lift 50 tonne stones. Most attempts have failed, although the correct technique must be close to what is being tried. Can the students fix the bugs before they get squished like bugs?
  • There is currently no physical or chemical model which can tell you what colour a pottery glaze will produce when fired, either in a modern kiln (which is oxidizing) or in an archaic kiln (which is reducing). By simulating the physics of what is taking place and the physics of optics, see if it is possible to produce some sort of a model, even if not universal or terribly accurate, that is better than the try-and-see method that potters currently use.
  • Semiconductors. We know that it's possible to make graphene with nothing more than pencil lead and lors of scotch tape. But what, exactly, ARE the semiconductor properties of graphene? How do these change with temperature? (Liquid nitrogen isn't hard to get hold of.)
  • High-Energy Physics. Once you're done with graphene, we know that scotch tape is an excellent source of X-Rays - when in a partial vaccuum. What energies can be produced? Do these change with a change in the level of vaccuum? What other factors might change the energies?
  • We all know about building a paper structure that can contain a raw egg, be dropped off a building, and have the egg intact at the end. But paper isn't terribly rigid. How far can you scale such models? Which models scale the best? How many eggs can you pack in in any given model?
  • Fluid Dynamics. There are well over 1,500 "commonly used" aerofoils published. It's not hard to make these and attach them to springs to measure forces, and if the Wright Brothers could make a wind tunnel using a bicycle and fan blades, so can a student. Compare the observations with what you'd expect based on different mathematical models (eg: the Bernouli Effect).

Video games, foo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27248727)

I would think that as a physics teacher, you could foster some motivation by explaining the amount of physics used in many types of video games. This could be used to create interest in mathematics, as in order to get anywhere with computer programming a strong math foundation is essential, and many children (not just the boys anymore) spend at least some time playing video games. If kids knew how much math was needed to actually make video games, they may become more interested and we may even see a rise in the number of math and computer science majors...

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