Energy can be transferred in two basic ways: through work or movement, which is known as kinetic energy, and through heat, which is known as thermal energy. Without the transfer of energy, the world as we know it would not only be vastly different, but it would be uninhabitable. Because energy is transferred all around us in a variety of ways, it makes both an interesting an approachable topic for a science project.
Kinetic Energy Transfer
This experiment is designed to demonstrate how kinetic energy, or the energy that an object or body possesses through motion, can be transferred from one object to another. It is best suited for younger--perhaps elementary-level--students. According to andybrain.com, all you will need is two drumsticks (or wooden spoons) and a drum (or large, upside bowl). Observe the sounds you hear when you bang the two drumsticks together and when you bang the sticks on the drum. Then, hold one stick flat down on the drum’s surface and hit it with the other stick, making sure not to strike the drum. If done properly, the kinetic energy from the stick you swing will be transferred to the stick at rest, which will in turn be transferred to the drum. This transfer of energy will create a sound reminiscent of you striking the drum, not another stick.
If you have ever worn a dark-colored outfit on a hot, sunny day, you have experienced the effect color has on the absorption of heat energy. According to green-planet-solar-energy.com, you can replicate--and measure--this phenomenon in a science project by using soda cans, paint, water, and thermometers. Paint one can black and another white and then fill them both up with water. Insert a thermometer into each (making sure to use a consistent depth and--ideally--the same model thermometers to eliminate variables). Place your cans outside and observe and record which color is able to transfer heat energy more easily from the sun to the water.
This next science project can be quite dangerous, and only upper-level students--with protective clothing on, especially safety glasses and gloves--should attempt it. You will need a new, unused coffee mug, water, a microwave, and a spoon. Fill the mug with water and heat it in the microwave for approximately two minutes. The trick is to stop the microwave before bubbling and other signs of boiling appear. Carefully pull the mug out of the microwave, and drop in the spoon (an excellent idea would be to fasten the spoon to the end of a yard stick, so you can stand further away). If done properly, the water should explode. According to stevespanglerscience.com, this happens because the water is superheated, meaning it heats up faster than its energy--in the form of bubbles--can be released. (It is important to use a new mug, because it will have fewer scratches, and thus provide fewer places, called nucleation sites, where bubbles can form.) When you drop in the spoon, it disrupts the water, causing all of that latent energy to surge outward.
About the Author
Erik Devaney is a writing professional specializing in health and science topics. His work has been featured on various websites. Devaney attended McGill University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in humanistic studies.