Hands On Physics


Design Guide for
Student Defined Extensions

Scientific investigations generally focus on the cause/effect relationship between two variables. Change one aspect of the situation and see how another is effected. Deciding what variables to investigate is a major part of defining the problem. For example; you might be interested in the effect of the detector on haze measurement. To make this a scientific study you would have to decide what you want to study about detectors, the type, the size, the amplifier circuit. Next you must decide what effect you'd like to observe as you change the detectors, like signal strength, repeatablity, or sensitivity.

Once you have chosen the independent variable (cause) and the dependent variable (effect), you can decide how the change the independent variable (like the number of wheels) and how to measure the dependent variable (like the distance traveled). It is a good idea to set up a table for recording measurements as you change the independent variable. A graph helps with the visualization of the relationship and may lead to a mathematical model.

Plan your extension so your report will have diagrams, tables, graphs, calculations, and equations.

Talk through your ideas with your teacher and make a plan before you begin to experiment. Once experimentation starts you will probably want to revise your original plan.

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