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Helping 3rd grader on "space" science fair project

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#1 DaemonGPF

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 05:35 PM

This is sort of an odd-ball topic, but might be best suited here since we're discussing producing the science quite literally. If not, mods, I assume you'll redirect me.

My daughter (in 3rd grade) has been assigned to complete a formal science project as part of her final grade, due on May 10th. Topic can be anything of her choosing, but must contain:

*Problem
*Hypothesis
*Procedure/Materials used
*Results/Data
*Conclusions

Must also have a visual display of her data/project of some sort.

As she is an avid astronomer with a nice 6" F/8.0 dob of her own, a DSLR, and some published astrophotos to boot - I was thinking of pointing her to do something astronomy related as it gives her opportunities for a unique approach.

I have a couple of concepts that popped in my head that would be a decent level project for an 8 yr old, but would like to see if anyone out there has some better ideas suitable for this initiative.

Here's a few I came up with:

(1) Light Pollution - Do city lights/moonglow affects astronomical observation? We live under dark skies in NM, but are in close proximity to Albuqerque where we can go to observe and collect some of the needed data, or go find a streetlamp nearby where I could have her attempt to observe under. And of course, we'll have a full lunar cycle to go through. We're also going out very remote to White Sands and some dark area star parties this coming weekend to contrast the above. She uses a camera proficiently these days so she could also take photographic evidence to show the difference of a certain exposure when the moon is down vs. up (same with light sources in contrast to dark skies).

(2) Is the moon round/does it move? Something to that aspect. She could use the craters and shadows concept, phase changes, etc., displaying some of it with photographic evidence along with some research.

3) Other?

She is in 3rd grade, but is quite advanced for her age and tests at a 5th grade level so she can handle a few concepts above her age group. The investigation and experimentation has to be primarily driven by her, where I would provide as minimal interference as possible - just enough to keep her on track or provide small breadcrumbs to help her reach conclusions on her own.

Thoughts? I'd greatly appreciate any advice or help you can provide.

#2 Jarad

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 06:00 PM

Well, to be topical, how about something about near earth objects?

She could point to the recent Russian meteor explosion as the "problem".

Her hypothesis could be that amateur astronomer can contribute to spotting near earth objects by taking astrophotos and looking for objects that move relative to background stars.

The one thing she would need that I don't know if you have is some sort of tracking mount.

Jarad

#3 DaemonGPF

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 06:28 PM

You know, that is a great idea! However, I might have to defer until her next time around in 4th grade.

Unfortunately at the moment I don't have a mount she could use.. I sold off my GEM, with no plans to replace short term as we are packing to move out of state at the end of May. The "CFO" has pointed out how I shouldn't be buying "toys", as she put it, until we're relocated and settled in our new home. Best thing I have at the moment is a Polarie tracker, but that wouldn't do a great job to get the results she needs since it limits her to using a relatively short focal length with a DSLR. Her dob is a push-to intelliscope. Those are the unfortunate limitations at the moment.

#4 Jarad

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 06:48 PM

Well, you could check with your local club to see if you have any members who are already doing that sort of thing.

On the moon idea, she might be able to get some shots of the moon over the next month to show the libration (slight shift side to side). She'd need to take some moderately high magnification shots of the same edge over a few weeks.

But otherwise I sort of like the light pollution idea.

Jarad

#5 llanitedave

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 12:09 AM

I like the light pollution idea as well. The testing apparatus can be pretty simple, and there are a number of directions she can take it.

But don't let us influence you or her too strongly. There is such a wealth of possibility out there.

Even with her push-to dob, you could put some kind of measuring scale in the eyepiece and do some basic astrometry. Some classic discoveries were made with equipment far more primitive than hers.

#6 StupendousMan

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 12:29 PM

Would she like to measure the distance to the Moon? If she takes a picture of the Moon with a telephoto lens or low-power telescope, and a friend (or parent) takes another picture at the very same time from a location some 20-50 miles away with a similar setup, she could determine the parallax of the Moon; and, with a bit of geometry, its distance.

Problems:

- figuring out the right exposure time could take some practice, but that could be part of the project. You'll want to see both the Moon's outline and some stars in the same image.

- trigonometry for a third-grader might sound like a problem, but you can sidestep it completely by setting a daytime experiment in which you take pictures of, say, a person standing in a big field with very distant buildings or trees in the background. Have the person stand a different distances from the cameras and take pictures. When the apparent shift of the person matches the apparent shift of the Moon, then the cameras-person triangle is the same shape as the cameras-Moon triangle.

This is probably a bit advanced, but maybe it will give you some ideas.

#7 rookie

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 06:32 PM

Good idea with the light pollution. She could do star counts of the same area of the sky in different locations. You could also get her a sky quality meter to quantify the photons and correlate the measured information with her observations. The narrow cone SQM-L can be pointed to specific areas of the sky.

#8 Ravenous

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 07:08 AM

Is that enough gear to get prime focus astrophotos of Jupiter's moons? A series with reasonably precise times might mean she can work out the orbital period of each and maybe predict eclipses, etc. (The mathematics might be a bit of a stretch though.)

#9 ggiles

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 08:26 AM

.... and what had your daughter thought of to do for a project??

#10 hm insulators

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 11:51 AM

I like the light pollution project.

#11 Jay_Bird

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 11:51 PM

With 4-5 weeks to complete, be careful how much to take on. Here are some ideas for her to consider, using her 6" scope:

1) can Jupiter's moons be reliably distinguished by appearance (color and brightness) study expected appearance, sketch for 2 weeks with presumed ID, then check vs. S&T app.

2) is the crater rium of (Clavius? Copernicus? Plato?) or mountain (Pico, Helicon?) similar in steepness to west slope of Sandias or east slope? There ought to be good procedures to Google up for estimating shadow length, finding sun angle at time of observation. Virtual Moon Atlas might be a big help. She might even be able to use a graphical approach showing the crater or mountain in schematic cross section; a protractor used to draw sun angle, the shadow length sketched in just as she measured, and the crater rim or mountain height read off the graph paper. The actual width of the crater rim or mountain (not its shadow length) could be drawn in a few days later at higher sun angle, the measured height from shadow exercise, over the actual width, is rise over run or slope of the feature.

Use features near the center N-S meridian to avoid distortion due to moon's curvature, measure shadows near 1st quarter and other details later...

3) how does dark adaption affect star counts - pick an object suited for a quick star count in 1-2 minutes, maybe some OC's, or use DSO with other features, then repeat with several intervals of dark adpation after exposure to light.

If she does the light pollution ideas, don't overlook the Globe at Night limiting mag charts as one possible tool.

A kid working at 5th grade level might be OK contouring the limiting magnitude based on measured values at 9 to 25 points on a grid (hash mark or tic tac toe) across your town...

hope these help... try to be "Socratic" to draw ideas out from her with some patient questions

#12 DaemonGPF

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 02:41 PM

Sorry for the lag everyone, I had to take a quick trip to San Diego for a few days for work. Just got back and catching up on the thread here.

These are all certainly thought provoking ideas. Sky is the limit - as they say. There's so many angles she could take on this project. I'll bounce some thoughts off of her tonight. I believe she may have selected already while I was away. Not sure if they are locked in upon selection or not.

ggiles, as this is her first time taking on a science project in a structured fashion as part of her grade, I think she was a bit intimidated at first. They handed the students a fairly generic list of project ideas that they could choose from if they didn't have an idea of their own. I think she had planned to go on the side of caution and just select one of the generics until she spoke with me about it. The motivation to do something off the beaten path was easy to instill in her. She is highly competitive in most things. By me suggesting that it's hard to stand out doing the same thing everyone else is doing, she realized that many of the other kids would likely be replicating the exact same project from the list. As none of her peers have any involvement in astronomy that she is aware of, nor do any of her classmates have a telescope, she liked the suggestion of pursuing a project in this area.

Again, thanks to everyone for providing some ideas. I'll let everyone know which way she goes (and of course post up pictures of the end results when the time comes).

#13 DaemonGPF

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 08:39 PM

Just an update - Aurora has finished up her "data analysis" portion of her science project. She did follow through with the light pollution project.

Results (Which we can sorta deduce here already as astronomers) - She pointed at M42 with her 6" dob and a 32mm EP and charted the stars she could see from White Sands, and repeated from Rio Rancho, with porch lights on, neighbors lights on, etc. She counted 52 stars from White Sands, and only 32 from Rio Rancho with the light sources in the way. She also used the DSLR at both locations with the same exposure settings. The exposure from White Sands was pristine, clear, and showed lots of detail. The picture from Rio Rancho with the light sources on was pinkish/red and washed out with bloated stars. She was able to explain the variance in the images and what she noticed visually quite well. She's working on charting this out and putting her draft together for her teacher to review this week.

I'm going to get her started on the final full presentation board in the next few days. She's going to include some of the light pollution charts/maps, and her diagrams and the two exposures from both locations on her display. She had never seen the light pollution maps before so she was quite astonished, but realized exactly what it represented based on her own observations that she had made prior. It was like watching a light bulb come on tonight (no pun intended).

I guess that's the point of all of this anyway right? It wouldn't be much of a challenge or experience if they didn't learn something from it. She has no idea the constraints we may be facing just yet when we move in about 5 more weeks. Our backyard is fairly dark - i.e. Milky Way is extremely prominent(used to cast shadows here just a couple years ago before development picked up...) Where we are moving to is going to put us in a "yellow" zone. I'm curious to see if this causes her to react and in what way.

#14 buddyjesus

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 10:32 PM

exciting. I can't wait to help my son with his.

#15 Jarad

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 07:42 AM

Good for both of you!

Jarad

#16 DaemonGPF

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 09:45 PM

Ok everyone, she has finished assembling her project. She will be delivering it on Friday at the science fair at her school. It will be part of her final grade, and it is also a competition for awards.

I took some quick pictures to show what she has assembled. Sorry they aren't the most impressive images ever - took them with the cell phone as my DSLRs are packed at the moment.

http://www.flickr.co...57633405395307/

I wrote a description on the photo/slideshow set as well. She will have her dob and the camera she used on display as well.

I'll post again from the science fair after the results.

#17 DaemonGPF

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 09:48 PM

...and no, that's not the cage we keep her in (behind her). That's for our sugar gliders.

Her "cage" is more messy. The sugar gliders are meticulous in comparison LOL.

#18 llanitedave

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 10:23 PM

Ok everyone, she has finished assembling her project. She will be delivering it on Friday at the science fair at her school. It will be part of her final grade, and it is also a competition for awards.

I took some quick pictures to show what she has assembled. Sorry they aren't the most impressive images ever - took them with the cell phone as my DSLRs are packed at the moment.

http://www.flickr.co...57633405395307/

I wrote a description on the photo/slideshow set as well. She will have her dob and the camera she used on display as well.

I'll post again from the science fair after the results.


Josh, that's absolutely wonderful! You should both be very proud. Whenever I start feeling cynical or jaded about humanity, I find someone like you and Aurora to restore my outlook. We need more folks like you and her in this world

#19 jchaller

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 11:58 PM

Ok everyone, she has finished assembling her project. She will be delivering it on Friday at the science fair at her school. It will be part of her final grade, and it is also a competition for awards.

I took some quick pictures to show what she has assembled. Sorry they aren't the most impressive images ever - took them with the cell phone as my DSLRs are packed at the moment.

http://www.flickr.co...57633405395307/

I wrote a description on the photo/slideshow set as well. She will have her dob and the camera she used on display as well.

I'll post again from the science fair after the results.


Nicely done. Quite a contrast between the two locations.

#20 DaemonGPF

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 12:15 PM

Thanks Dave and Jim! Appreciate the kind words.

http://www.flickr.co...57633405395307/

New pics in the gallery from the science fair in the above link.

Here's an update from the science fair this morning. They set up around 8am, and Aurora's project was one of the first they evaluated. She did well. They gave her a perfect score across the board. There were some other top notch projects in there as well though. So they are going to group up and vote on them right now for the overall top 3. She was not up against just her grade level either. We'll know in a couple hours what the results are. Either way, she's landed an A+ on the project for her grade!

#21 Mister T

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 06:39 AM

+1

#22 Jay_Bird

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 03:17 PM

Check latest IDA e-mail news for a lot more about Aurora's project, picture and links too.

Nice work!

#23 DaemonGPF

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 08:59 PM

Woah, I see my article on there too! LOL

I don't see Aurora's though?

Update - AURORA TOOK FIRST PLACE!! It took them a few days to get the results back, not sure why. I'll post a pic shortly.

#24 DaemonGPF

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 09:04 PM

Here she is!

Posted Image

#25 Mister T

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 07:18 AM

AWESOME!! :jump: :jump: :jump: :jump:

Whit that smile she could be the next science ambassador!!






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