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Science Fair Focuses on What Makes Things Go

Image: KDES student Freddy Scott watches while Aliza Castro-Selzer tries out his “Funny Fish” paper clip and magnet experiment.

KDES student Freddy Scott watches while Aliza Castro-Selzer tries out his “Funny Fish” paper clip and magnet experiment.

Image: Samuel Bachoo describes his water wheel works while teacher’s aide Renee Poyer assists.

Samuel Bachoo describes his water wheel works while teacher’s aide Renee Poyer assists.

How can you drive a toy car without touching it? Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) first grader Mikaela Gibbs discovered that an energy force can be created using magnets. At the first grade mini-science fair held on May 26, Gibbs demonstrated how her cardboard car with a polar magnet attached to the front bumper could be forced to move. She held another polar magnet in her hand and her car would rapidly move away or towards her depending on if she held out the magnet's positive or negative side.

"This spring, our first grade class explored different ways to generate energy using magnets, batteries, wind, water, and electricity," said teacher Elizabeth Hall. "Each of the students picked out an energy project to make at home and bring in to demonstrate at our science fair."

Gibbs and her fellow classmates shared a variety of experiments with their audience (e.g., Driving Force, Jumping Coin, Make Your Own Thermometer, Magnets and Motors, Waterwheel, Anemometer, and Funny Fish). The students learned that energy comes from many sources, including the sun, air, and water. Some energy can be created when two objects do or do not touch each other like the magnets in Gibbs's car experiment.

"The students were particularly fascinated with how heat can move things. In one of the experiments, the students rubbed their hands together and wrapped them around a bottle of water with a closed top. The heat from their hands caused the water to rise in the bottle just like heat causes mercury in a thermometer to rise," said Hall. "The students were amazed how energy they could not see could make things move or change form." These experiments helped the students learn some of the basics of physical systems, including concepts of the properties of matter, energy, forces, and motion.

At the end of the science fair, the students invited their audience back to their classroom for a show using black light. Each of the students donned a pair of white gloves. The teacher's aide, Renee Poyer, turned off the overhead lights. Only the white gloves glowed in the dark. The students performed a tribute to energy song in American Sign Language, celebrating what they had learned about what makes things go.