What is CABS?

This site will help high school students and teachers find original, independent science research topics and questions that can be done without a professional lab...these can be done in a school lab or even in one's basement! The project ideas and research questions being developed and presented here have been vetted and could lead to true discoveries, and not just finding already known results. See our Welcome message. These are the types of projects that could be done and submitted to high school contests such as the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, or the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and be competitive. If you have an idea to share, or a question about one of the project ideas, contact us at vondracekm@eths202.org.

Pages (on the right side of the screen) have lists of ideas for different types of science research projects, and clicking on one of those ideas will take you to posts with details and all sorts of information about that type of project. Get more information about why there is a need for CABS!

Friday, July 20, 2018

2016 Google Science Fair Grand Prize given for a 'basement science' project!

Use this as inspiration, and this story reflects the whole purpose of this web site:

Teenager Kiara Nirghin of South Africa won the 2016 Google Science Fair top prize for her work in trying to solve a local problem. South Africa was in the midst of a severe drought, and a majority of its people were beginning to feel pressure with food insecurity since crops were dying. Kiara was determined to help solve this problem by inventing a homemade chemical using orange and avocado peels that can hold 300 times its weight in water. By planting this mixture next to growing plants, the plants did significantly better and could survive much longer in the drought conditions.

This is an amazing example of the type of science and discovery one can do without funding, professional labs, and in one's basement!!

It takes identifying something of interest, breaking it down into fundamental pieces - think about what quantities and parameters might affect whatever it is you are interested in - and then create experiments to test how any of those parameters affects the system. Often one can find a local problem that requires a unique and new solution, and teens are fully capable of figuring such problems out!!

Just try it if you are curious about something!! You're likely to amaze yourself!

Citizen Science - A chance for anyone to be involved

Citizen science has become a type of research that has exploded in the past few decade. Because some areas of research are so vast, and have enormous numbers of measurements or data points that need to be looked at, or cover huge areas of physical space, there is no good way for an individual or small team of researchers to make the necessary observations or analyze the 'big data' sets that are collected. The solution - call the calvary! That is, make a bigger research team by getting volunteers, who are non-scientists and non-experts in the field, but who can help get through the data or make additional observations that otherwise would not be possible!

Keep in mind, these projects may give you some spin-off ideas for an individual project you can try, especially those that involve field work. Use these to find inspiration and trigger your own imagination!

Check out Zooniverse to see dozens of research projects that need help from someone just like you! National Geographic has numerous projects. There are many more, too, as listed on this Wikipedia page.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Engineering/Innovation Idea - "Touch-screen" Walls

For those who have students more into the 'E' of STEM, which is Engineering, here is a project idea they may want to try. In the July, 2018, Scientific American is an article explaining how to change a wall into effectively a touchscreen surface. This can be done for about $200, and could be a good challenge for students. In addition, they can try to rig up a circuit board that can be read out by a computer and try to produce images of objects in the room that can be picked up by the wall.

If this is done successfully, one can begin to have students think of clever applications of the wall. Keep in mind these definitions (my favorites are from creativity guru Sir Ken Robinson, in his book "Out of Our Minds"):
Imagination: process of bringing to mind things that are not present to our senses;
Creativity: process of developing original ideas that have value;
Innovation: process of putting new ideas into practice.

Let students innovate with the wall, and see where it takes them. While this is not necessarily research for new discoveries, this is the type of project that will allow students to become engineers, who take existing science and figure out ways of using it to solve real-world, practical problems. For instance, what if a store had such a wall - what are some ways it could be used by the store employees? Or in a home? In a police station? What about uses of this sort of wall in outdoor settings? Could be a lot of fun trying this!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NASA announces PubSpace site

NASA just made it easy to find and have access to any peer-reviewed, published research article from any group that had any level of NASA funding. This is called NASA PubSpace, which is housed at PubMed Central (PMC). You can browse all NASA funded papers in PMC, or you can access and search for all PMC articles. Note there are over 4.9 million articles you can access in PMC for the life and medical sciences! WOW!! 

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Possible Research Pathway: Biomechanics studies of just about any critter!

So, if you have taken a physics class, there is a good chance you've come across learning something about springs and elastic forces. It is the right question to ask when we cover something like springs in class: Why should we care? Besides being able to solve some physics problems, what's the point?

A cool application has to do with the size of organisms. Small critters like insects are too small to have muscles the way we do. Instead, they've evolved effectively springs in their legs, which are more linear than muscles, which are multidimensional and, therefore, take up too much space for their body to fit or support. Awesome!

Keep in mind that biomechanical studies are something we can try to do in our research program! One can study any local organisms, from how and why they move the way they do (locomotion), mechanical advantages and efficiencies and relative strengths when they move other objects, ratios of various body parts and why those ratios, and not others, evolved. One may think of this as an engineer would, or from the point of view of finding the basic mechanical and dynamic principles as a pure scientist would ask. Consider using video techniques as the main source of data and observations.

Keep in mind these types of research questions can be applied to any organism of any size, and not just animals or microorganisms...one can ask interesting questions about any type and size plant. What are the relative sizes of arteries in the plants structure compared to the height and other dimensions of the plant, or to the size of its leaves. Be creative and let your mind develop a wide range of possible questions that can be explored!

It may be possible to develop or find some software to design your own organism to see how it might fare in some ecosystem. Think computational biomechanics!

In all cases, one may consider something like ratios and proportions of various body or plant parts over the growth stages of the organism. Do various ratios stay constant through growth, or are there different ratios at different stages of growth? Again, be observant and be creative in the questions you ask and pursue. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Single-drop Experimentation

While never having a student of mine pick up experiments using single drops of water, outside of looking at Faraday waves on oscillating droplets of water (on a rigid, vibrating surface), we can imagine numerous possible experimental studies. There are classic videos of a single drop falling into a plate of water, and so on. But think of a variety of different ways of looking at a single drop of water; or it could be any liquid, and do comparison studies. With enough variety and creativity, there is a good chance what you end up looking at is not something that has been studied in depth.

Experimentally, video is best way to view whatever system you choose. Be sure to have some measured distance scale in the video or picture. You will also want to know the diameter and volume of the water droplets, as well as the height from which a drop or anything else falls - you will want some measure of the impact speed based on the height and effects of air friction.

  • Notice individual drops of water on car windows after or during rain falling. What determines the size of drops that are able to remain stationary on the window? One could do experiments where different sized water drops (using pipettes to measure the volume of water in the drop) are placed on a glass surface, which is then tilted are a variety of angles. What effect does the angular tilt have on the size of droplets that are able to remain stationary? Does the surface temperature have any effect? When drops finally succumb to gravity and flows down the surface, are there any patterns that consistently appear? Add wind - use a fan or hair dryer, and what effect does this have? Use surfaces of differing materials, to see what role surface plays on the behavior of drops. 
  • if you have any high-speed camera capabilities, what do single drops look like when they fall and hit hard surfaces? What are the splash patterns of single droplets of differing sizes/volumes? Does temperature make a difference? Does surface material make a difference? Is there any momentary flow of the water from the droplet along the surface before splashing happens? Does it make any difference if the surface is tilted through some range of angles? What happens if there is a single grain of sand or other material at the location of where the drop lands? What if there are small divots/craters on the surface where the drops land? Can you suppress the splash of single drops  by using different materials/topologies of the surfaces? 
  • For drops of water sitting on a surface, what happens if a single grain of sand falls into the drop? Is there splashing? Are there 'ripples' or waves on the surface of the drop due to the impact of a grain of sand? What about using drops of other liquids? Grains of materials other than sand? 
  • For any of the above experiments, what if the surface vibrates or moves in any way? 
Be creative, and keep thinking of variations on a theme, and make your experiments something new! 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Method for seeing and filming air flow: Schlieren Imaging

Here is a wonderful imaging process that can be done in the spirit of basement science. It is called Schlieren imaging, and it makes use of a convex or parabolic mirror, a point light source, and a camera with a telephoto lens.

Keep in mind that if you want to visualize the flow of water, make use of rheoscopic fluid.