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High school senior project: something I can construct and donate to the physics department any suggestions? Answered

I want to build a demonstration unit that would be useful for the physics teachers.  It has to be fairly challenging to construct, but not impossible or particularly costly.


A wave tank might be nice. I rember using one back in the Dark Ages that looked like an 18x18x18 inch end table. It had a 2-inch deep plexiglas/lexan tray mounted on a 4-legged wooden frame. I think it had a light source (desk lamp?) mounted over it as well.

A sheet of white paper was placed under the tank-table, the tray was filled with an inch of water, and the student would create different wave patterns and interference by dripping water with an eyedropper into the pool. I think we used different shapes of static barriers as well.

Oh yeah, some sort of drain with plug for removing the water after class is ideal.

A foucault pendulum is another cool project.


We used a DIY version in one class and were able to observe a change in position (inddicating rotation of the Earth) just in the hour we were in that class.

How about some kind of Newton meter?

What is a "Newton meter"? I know it's the SI unit of torque, but I don't think that's what you meant.

One of those tubes with a spring in it and markings down the side. They use them in secondary school science classes a lot.

Ah! We 'Murricans call that a "spring scale" (as opposed to a "balance scale"). The larger ones are sometimes called "fish scales".

Here's a picture of me adjusting four dozen of them to apply roughly a tonne of tension to the aluminum plates of the BaBar drift chamber:


We actually say moments when we mean turning forces, and the units we use are Newton-metres (note hyphen and last two letters).

A Newton meter is, as Jayfuu says, a tube with a spring in it, used for measuring pushes and pulls. I made a simple one with plumbing scraps and a rubber band.

If you have access to a metal lathe, how about a large demonstration-type gyroscope? Might even be able to make one out of wood, though balancing it might be a challenge.

Wimshurst machine. If you get it going you won't want to donate it! :-)

What about a spectrograph? A diffraction grating mounted in one wall of an enclosure, with a reticulated white screen for projection, and an opening for viewing.

A good one would be a couple of feet long, big enough for a student to look in and get calibrated wavelength measurements off the screen.