Students are turning ideas into reality through projects in Big History Science.


This block, Big History Science students worked on independent projects of their own choice, with the option of tying their work into what we have learned in class so far. The variety of ideas that came from the students was astounding, ranging from making a planetary model with gears, to a gravity well, to a card game based on the elements in the periodic table, to a rail gun, to instant ice!

The students went through a process of refining the scope of their projects and weighing in practical considerations before diving into their projects. They researched methods and materials and came up with novel modifications. Some of the initial proposals, like producing graphene, sent us along a journey to assess whether such a project could be scaled down to the classroom. When we realized we couldn't produce graphene in the classroom, that group of students was flexible enough to try something new and set out on a very interesting project, but this time, with materials in hand.

Another group worked on building a Gauss Cannon and discovered the many design parameters on which a successful launch depended. They experimented with wedging magnets, tried configurations with stacking magnets when the chrome coating on the disc-shaped magnets ruptured on impact, and came up with wonderful solutions.

Yet another group fabricated a gravity well from wrapping stretchable fabric around an embroidery hoop. This is an exhibit that is typically seen at science museums, but the extension to the idea was to put the whole assembly on a rotating carousel, so it more closely resembled what happens to planets as they orbit the sun. "They don’t just fall in!," as one student exclaimed.

The project activities brought students together in unique ways. They got to work closely with each other, consulting, researching, and learning how to proceed in spite of disagreements. We look forward to doing more such projects in the future!

--Kaushik Basu