Glenbrook South Year-End Physics Projects

Project Overview and Description


Historical Note

Since 1995, students in the Regular Physics (Physics 163) course at Glenbrook South have completed a year-end research project. The project was designed to provide a means to authentically assess students' ability to conduct an extensive scientific research project. The research nature of the project involves conducting both a literature search and a laboratory investigation on a chosen topic. Students research a topic in order to acquire sufficient background information, thus allowing for the development of an experimentally testable question. Once a testable question is formulated, the project groups develop a workable experimental procedure to investigate the question and arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

The following Web pages were designed to facilitate students' ability to search the Internet for background information regarding their chosen topic. While the primary purpose of the pages is to provide assistance to Glenbrook South students, it is recognized that physics teachers (and perhaps students) from other schools might cross this page during the course of their Internet surfing. If that is the case for you, and you wish to receive further information about the project or other assessment activities, then feel free to contact the physics staff at Glenbrook South High School.






Project Overview

Physics is an experimental science in which ideas are formulated and tested by experimental investigation in the laboratory. The process begins as the experimenter ponders an interesting (and often relevant) question that can be experimentally answered. Such a question is often the result of the experimenter's curiosity. The process continues as the experimenter hypothesizes about the expected answer. The formulation of a hypothesis is often the result of searching a breadth of technical literature on the subject. The experimenter soon devises an experiment to test the hypothesis. The procedure is drawn up, revised, and refined until the experimenter is certain that the procedure will provide an answer to the question. The procedure is performed, data and observations are collected and organized, experimental findings are carefully analyzed, and conclusions are drawn. Finally, the entirety of the process is presented in the form of a report, paper, or talk.

Your year-end research project will involve the participation in this same experimental process. The steps of the process should include the selection of a topic of study, the search of technical literature resources regarding the topic, the creation of a testable question, the formulation of a hypothesis, the development and implementation of a procedure, and the reporting of results.


List of Topics

Students may select to study any one of the following nine topics. Each topic is limited to a maximum of one group of four students per class. Each topic includes its own expectations and focus. Information sheets for each topic are available in the classroom on the back bulletin board and by following the links below. Project sign-ups begin the week of March 15.


Project Schedule

The following schedule for completion of the various parts of the study has been arranged. Dates are tentative and therefore subject to change.

Topic introduction

Week of March 15

Topic selection

Week of March 15

Literature Search in IMC

March 25 and March 26

Literature Survey/Theory & Bibliography Peer Assessment

Due on April 16

Acquaintance with Technology

April 21 (1 day)

Literature Search /Theory & Bibliography Rough Draft

Due on April 21

Project Proposal/Design Peer Assessment

Due on April 27

Project Proposal/Design Rough Draft

Due on April 30

Approval of Proposal

Week of May 3

Experimental Investigation/Work

May 6, 10, 11, 13, 17, 18


Reports scheduled for May 19, 20, 26, 27, 28


Assessment and Evaluation

Each section described below, except Student Observation, will be first submitted to your peers, then submitted in rough draft form to your teacher, and then submitted in final draft form to your teacher. These scores will be combined to make a weighted average to get your actual grade for each section. Finally, you will present your findings in the form of a 15-minute multimedia presentation. The scoring rubrics for the assessment and evaluation of your project are available online.

Literature Search/Theory

A literature search must be completed by the group before any experimentation can begin. This search should be designed to identify the major principles which govern the field you are researching. You should identify, discuss, elaborate upon, and illustrate the key principles and concepts which are related to your topic. Additionally, your literature search should include all relevant information and experimental results conducted by other researchers. It should be accurate and complete. You must incorporate into and cite information from at least 10 sources in your theory section: at least five electronic ones (either CD-ROMs or Internet sources), at least 2 books, and at least three periodicals. This search of the literature should lead you to define a topic which you can research in the laboratory. You must include a complete bibliography and cite all sources from within your literature search. The literature search/theory is worth 40 of the 200 points towards the final grade on the project.



Each team must complete a proposal for their research that they will conduct. This proposal should include a purpose statement which identifies a testable question, states clearly what variables will be changed and how they will be measured. Your project proposal must be an ambitious proposal for the collection of multiple data sets. Assume that an ambitious study is one which will keep four group members (if their are four members in your group) busy collecting and analyzing data for five class days. Your proposal should also include a hypothesis which is based on the research that you did and substantiated with evidence. Your proposal must include a step-by-step procedure for both data collection and analysis. It should be detailed enough that anyone could follow it in order to collect the data necessary to answer the question. Finally, there must be a plan for how to analyze and interpret your data once you have collected it. A good start towards this end is to draft a blank data table. The proposal is worth 40 of the 200 points towards the final grade on the project.


Data and Discussion of Results

In this section, you must use your data to answer the question stated in your purpose. You should make sense of your experimental findings by connecting them to the larger body of research in your literature search. Your interpretation must be logical and consistent with your data. You should identify relationships you discover between your variables, and identify quantitatively (wherever possible) the errors. The impact of these errors on the data and on the conclusions must be discussed. The Data and Discussion is worth 50 of the 200 points towards the final grade on the project.



Each group is responsible for providing both a word-processed and multimedia report of the group's literature and experimental research findings. All members of the group are responsible for these reports (i.e., it must be a team effort). Completion of the report should be a gradual, on-going process which begins with the bibliography and literture search, continues with the project proposal and laboratory investigation, and is culminated by the multimedia report. Guidelines for the multimedia report and word-processed report can be found on the information sheet for your topic. This is worth 40 of the 200 points towards the final grade on the project.


Student Observation

Each day, your teacher will be observing your group's habits of working dilligently on the project. S/He will assign a grade for your behavior based on the measurements you take, your usage of class time, your journal of progress, your self-directed motivation, and your teamwork, collaboration and communication. The observations are worth 30 of the 200 points towards the final grade on the project.


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Year-End Projects

Musical Instruments

Auto Collisions


Sight and Sound

Roller Coasters


Planetary Motion

Special Relativity


Other Year-End Project Resources

Year End Projects

Project Timeline

Lab Report

Project Pitfalls

Scoring Rubrics

The Project Corner



Web Site Trail Map

Other GBS Resources

GBS Physics Page

Physics 163 Page

The Refrigerator

The GBS Physics staff invite you to send electronic mail:

Tom Henderson

Howard Jenewein

John Lewis

Neil Schmidgall

Dave Smith

Suzanne Webb

Brian Wegley

This page last updated on 3/8/99.