Composite materials or composites are rich fodder for science fair projects for students and individuals to undertake. Composites are materials that organically or by design consist of two or more materials with differing chemical or physical properties, properties that retain the distinction on a smaller scale when combined. Composites are used in a wide variety of processes, including the ones that make roadway pavements, fiberglass, marble sinks and counter tops. Increased interest in composite materials has led it to become the subject of one category of merit badges earned by participants in the Boy Scouts of America, requiring scouts to demonstrate knowledge in six composite categories.
Explanation, Comparison and Historical Projects
Projects on composite materials could begin with or consist of defining and explaining composite materials, their attributes and how they are used. Some projects include a history and time-line of when composite materials were discovered and implemented for use. These explanatory projects can also compare composites to other types of materials.
Projects can focus on explaining and exploring resin in composite materials, the plastic component that protects fiber elements from environmental consequences and transfers components to the reinforcement fiber. Projects can demonstrate the two different classifications of resins, thermoplastics and thermosets, and the process of crosslinking in thermosets. Crosslinking is the joining of polymers, segments of repeating molecular units.
Students making projects with composites should definitely take caution and can make that the subject of their projects. They can demonstrate the established safety procedures for dealing with composite materials, including discussing the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS.) Projects could include a demonstration of properly handling and storing materials.
Catagorization and Use Projects
Composite materials projects might discuss the process of creating composite materials, including the distinction between composite reinforcement and resin materials. These types of projects will show how materials are categorized and used.
Projects can demonstrate a number of processes related to composite materials. They can demonstrate filament winding, resin transfer molding, compression molding and extrusion.
Students and scouts have made a variety of projects out of composite materials, including tennis racquets, car parts, surf boards, totem poles, walking sticks, window flower boxes, toy boats, snow shoes, troop trailers, camp signage, canoe, walking sticks, fiber cement siding, golf club shafts and aircraft components. They have demonstrated how composites are used in composite decking, car or boat repair, pinewood derby modification, tool handle repair and fiberglass roofing.
Students or scouts can do a project exploring the career opportunities involved with composites. They can select a career path and explain what it entails or give a comprehensive overview of these jobs. Career projects can include the educational and work experience requirements, the daily operation of the sites and what global impact the composite materials have compared to other sectors.
About the Author
Mateo Zeske has written professionally for over five years, including articles for "High School Sports," the industrial "How to Get Started with a Talent Agency" and community-oriented e-zines. As a filmmaker Zeske worked with production companies Hit It and Quit It, Road Dog Productions and masterminded the series "Bastardized Product." He holds a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas.