From the project guidelines: "The project must start with a ball rolling down some kind of a track, but it may switch to other types of objects and designs as long as the physics concepts are illustrated."
Students can use a variety of materials including wood, plastic tubing, peg board, metal railings and more. The project should be self-supporting, and reliable, requiring multiple trials. In addition to covering physics concepts, students are evaluated on creativity and elaborate design.
This year's projects included water pouring tea-pots, exploding toy cars, match-sticks lit by triggers, and the ever popular Mentos in soda bursts. I've chosen to include this science activity in my course blog because of the impact our new spaces have had on the project build day. While in years past students could work outdoors and share a limited number of tools, this year they had access to miter saws, a drill press, a laser cutter, and a variety of hand-held power tools. PIRL Terrace served as a workshop and toolshed, with students and teachers buzzing about like a colony of bees hard at work on the hive. There seemed to be no lull in the build day, as students stopped only for short breaks or to grab a slice of pizza.
After a day and a half of building, the 8th graders showcased their work to students in the other grade levels, along with faculty and parents. While not all of the marbles found their proper destination 100% of the time, the amount of time, effort and energy that students put into the process of designing, building, and iterating was clearly evident.
Thank you to Reynaldo Macias for photos and video.