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, Siemens Science Competition, 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!

Experimental Research Ideas: Physical Sciences

Below are project topic and research question ideas for, primarily, physics and chemistry, the key physical science disciplines. These have been checked and should allow for original research opportunities - that is, you could make actual discoveries and novel findings for each of these projects! And  you should not need access to a professional laboratory, but rather can design and build an experiment in your school lab or even in your own house.

As this site develops over time, just click on a topic of interest, and it will take you to a separate post about that specific topic. You will find background information, relevant links to articles, vocabulary, experimental methods, videos, and so on. Hopefully you will find enough information to actually be able to do the project!

Experimental Topics & Research Questions: Physical Sciences


  • Coiling of viscous jet in water – could vary diameter of container, width of jet, height from which honey falls into water, temp of water, vary width of container, have multiple layers of fluids (oils on water), uneven bottom of container, depth of water in the container (how do number, radius, width of honey strand, and vertical stretch between coils vary when other variables are changed); 2 or more honey jets at various distances from each other to see if they affect each other compared to a single jet; what happens when the honey stream pours into water that is rotating (put glass on a turn table, for instance)?; what if stream is poured onto a surface that oscillates vertically at various frequencies and amplitudes; poured onto a surface that is angled; any differences in coiling in salt water vs. plain tap water or distilled water. 


Numerous fluid articles on John Bush's MIT site (applied math professor), including hydraulic Bump, pilot wave dynamics, bouncing droplets, walking droplets, and more. Many good ideas and variations can be done on these.

Granular Materials

  • Vertically vibrated sand, bronze powder (see an example)
  • Vertically vibrated, surface angled
  • High frequency vibrated granulars (> 100 Hz) (see an example)
  • Avalanching experimentation (see an example)
  • Wind-blown granular (difficult to do simulations of sand storms, experimental work with this type of phenomenon)
  • Vertically vibrated patterns as function of air pressure (in bell jar)
  • Vertically vibrated granulars on rotating surface
  • Properties of damp/wet granular systems
  • Simultaneous horizontal and vertical vibrations
  • Rotated systems – separation of mixtures
  • Vibrated mixed systems, various sized grains
  • Effect of humidity and moisture on granular material behaviors
  • Time evolution of mixing of layers in vertically vibrated granulars (see an example)
  • Effect of barriers/walls in container of vertically vibrated granulars; is there any horizontal movements of grains, or do patterns remain same despite vertical barriers (see an example)
  • Effect of temperature changes on (dry, damp, wet) granular systems
  • Stratification and segregation in heap formation (see an example)
  • Pile behavior while being ‘sucked’ by a vacuum
  • Pile formation when grains are blown into vertical surfaces of varying shapes
  • Bulldozing a pile - same size grains, vs mix of sizes, shapes, etc.
  • Flow down funnels
  • Pendulum swinging into piles of granular materials, distribution after the collisions (can change angle of impact, size/mass/speed of pendulum bob, string pendulum vs rigid pendulum, size of grains, homo- vs heterogeneous mixtures of grains, same vs variety of sizes of grains, dimensions of pile, dry vs moist piles, etc.)
  • Thin streams or 'jets' of fine granular material falling on hard surfaces, liquid surfaces, other granular surfaces; try experiments similar to what is done with thin jets of liquid falling, such as hydraulic jump type experiments - compare and contrast the two sets of experiments, what are the main differences? 
  • Effect of single grain falling into drops of liquid; single grain falling into a drop of vibrating liquid (such as with Faraday waves on the drop's surface)
  • Single grains falling onto single layer of granular material; or two, three, n+1 layers; could try same size or differing sized grains falling compared to grains on surface.
  • Deep layers of material being vibrated
  • Technique to see individual particles in a granular collection, http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/science-technology/article55149400.html 
Numerous articles and ideas on granular materials.

NU: http://www.physics.nwu.edu/research/nonlin.html


Materials: Fragmentation, Cracking/Breaking/Splintering Properties/Collisions

  • Blow to sticks of various materials (such as by a pendulum), and fragmentation and/or breaking patterns exhibited by those materials
  • Blow to sheets of materials, and denting and/or cracking and/or fragmentation and/or breaking patterns exhibited by those materials
  • Fragmentation of sticks, such as spaghetti - a classic study of taking a cylindrical stick, klike dry spaghetti, and bending it until if breaks. What are the properties of this? This type of study can be done for any type stick, material, size, thickness, etc. (see an example)
  • Materials under pressure: cracking/fragmentation/breaking points exhibited by those materials. How does thickness affect results? Layering? Shape of object?
  • Blow to foam materials; do drilled out patterns change the dynamics of the collisions? (see an example)
  • Studies of all the above as a function of shape, geometry of the material sample
  • Studies of all the above for samples of materials brand new versus worn/used samples; do existing scratches or indentations cause significant differences in these properties under the same experimental conditions?
Heat Flow

  • Temperature distributions within containers (see an example)
  • Heat flow in materials (see an example)
  • Temperature distributions and time dependency in materials with oscillating heat source (see an example)
  • Heat refraction (heat flow from one material to another; see an example)
  • Temperature distributions in fluids due to heat source (point source vs uniform exposure; with and without currents, turbulence; geometry and size of container; depth of liquid)
  • Effect of surface temperature on frictional properties (see an example)
Numerous articles and ideas on heat flow.


Complex Systems


  • Counterintuitive behavior of mechanical systems (see an example)
  • Synchronization of metronomes on a common surface (see an example
  • Synchronization of coupled double pendula (see a modeling example)
  • Magnetic drag forces (see an example)
Numerous articles and ideas on complexity.
Numerous articles and ideas on emergence.

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