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Kids Science Project

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My son did a GPS exeriment for his science fair, almost two years ago now I think.


He was 11. One of the things he did to illustrate triangulation nicely was took a globe (we used a playground ball from walmart with the world map on it) and glued three balsa sticks to the globe in the center of three overlapping circles which had been drawn on the ball with marker.


On top of each of these sticks he glued a model of a GPS satellite for illustrative purposes. Then glued a small model of a man in the center point where all three circles met with each other.


He explained how since the GPSR knew how far it was from the satellite it would have to be located somewher on the circle below the sat. Since the GPS knows about three sats minimum, it can calculate the point on earth where the person is.


I hope I explained this well.....


Once the science fair was ove, him and hs brother removed the sats from the ball, and now have a ball to play with as well :-)

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Please note that good science teachers will tell you that for a science fair project, you should follow the scientific process to answer a question:


1) Research/ Hypothesis

2) Design/Experiment

3) Results/Analysis

4) Conclusion/Check Hypothesis


When I was in school I would often be one of the top projects in the class (and won a few county awards too). My projects were questions like "Which metals are magnetic?" and "Which insulation type holds the most heat?" (this one won the Baltimore Gas & Electric Best Energy Project Award in the County Fair that year).



So to use GPS for a science project for an 8 year old, something as simple as "Can a GPS receiver tell me my coordinates anywhere?" might be appropriate.


Research would entail finding info in books ("Fun with GPS", "GPS for Dummies", and "Idiot's Guide to Geocaching" might help), websites ( try http://www.trimble.com/gps ...I wasn't able to view their Shockwave files from Linux), and other sources like pop-science periodicals or other mass media articles that define how GPS works. Using this info, your 8-yr old should be able to decide an answer to the question of whether the GPSr can get a satellite signal anywhere or not..and if not, then what places might he expect to lose the signal or keep the signal.


Experimental design is then testing this hypothesis by going to the locations hypothesized about and trying to get a signal or find an object geocaching-style that you suggest to him and see if he can report the coordinates. You can try things inside tents (porous material that might actually let a signal through), evergreen forested areas, open fields, inside the mall/buildings, inside the house, in the car, and so on.


Analysis of the results should let him determine what effects each of the different environments had on his ability to gain signal lock. Is there a common element that comes out from the data. Maybe not only did he get a signal lock, but record how many satellites each time and how strong the bar was on the GPSr screen for each satellite (guesstimate a bit here in percentages or define them as (locked and high, locked and medium, locked and low, unlocked and variable, no signal)).


Finally, draw conclusions. How good were his hypotheses. Was he able to accurately predict GPSr grabbing a signal in all cases? What surprises did he run into (like the tent/car)? Can he explain the difference between the center of the house and being near the window signal changes? What does that mean about where the satellites are relative to the house? What future experiments might be possible based on what he's learned? What about places where the sky is blocked by large mountains all around or downtown buildings in a large city? How can the GPS system be improved locally to those places based on what he knows about the GPS system now and what the signals do and how they reach the GPSr?


EDIT: Saw Dino Hunters posted too, just wanted to say that I am not commenting on their project with my suggestions.

Edited by ju66l3r
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Don't underestimate the inquisitive nature of an 8-yr old. You will be able to read their level of interest though and allow that to dictate how intense you want the projec t to be.


I don't think the GPS project I suggested above would take too much time or hassle, but you can leave a lot of it up to your kid. See if they can brainstorm a question that they want to answer, whether it's GPS-related or not. That's often the best way to get a project started with them, since they should do the work to get the most out of it and so it should be something that they're interested in (so it doesn't feel or become you pulling them through it).


Once they come up with a question, help them edit it to something that will take some time, but will still be a tractable problem for them to solve.

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my reply was just my often mistaken sense of humour. Thank you so much for the input. I'll try your method of coming up with a question to answer. I am afraid of too much involvement by me. Kid friendly info is very hard to come by.

we are now thinking of maybe doing the whole rock tumbler vs mother nature thing but GPS is not ruled out quite yet

thanks again

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1) Research/ Hypothesis - what materials block gps signal - have him make a guess and do the test

2) Design/Experiment - create a box that can have its roof changed out with different materials (plywood, metal (steel/lead/copper/ect), fiberglass, plastic)

3) Results/Analysis - have something, a gps unit or other device to measure signal strength and record which material blocks the gps signal more

4) Conclusion/Check Hypothesis - what did he find out.


Simple to create and administer yet has a technical modern side.

Edited by pcfrog
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My sons was like this


1) Research/ Hypothesis


How does weather impact GPS accuracy.

Hypothesis - cloud covering will decrease accuracy.


2) Design/Experiment


Found a known location.

Recorded weather and distance from location 2 times daily for set period.


3) Results/Analysis


Data was analyzed and summarized.


4) Conclusion/Check Hypothesis


Hypothesis was incorrect. Data showed more accurate results on cloudy days than on clear.


(However my son and I realized that in the bigger scheme of things his experiment was on a limited set of data, and likely the results would change if a larger dataset were to be sampled.)


Since he had followed these priciples however, his grade was good.

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