Best Kid-Explained Physics Concepts

By: Laurie-Anne Vazquez 12/21/2015 10:31PM
Category: Learning

Science isn’t just for scientists - it’s for everyone, including kids. Sometimes those kids use science to create solutions scientists would never expect, like this 9-year-old girl who wants to keep astronauts healthy by creating a dinosaur treadmill game. They often explain it simply, too.  These are some of the best explanations of physics concepts by kids that we’ve found on the web.

NOTE: Due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), it is illegal to collect and release information for children under 13. We’ll be using pronouns for those children for that reason. 


Hydraulic Elevator

This young lady creates an hydraulic elevator out of a cardboard box, plastic tubes, and syringes for a science project. She explains each step and the science behind it as she goes. She even reminds us of what she’s testing before trying the experiment: “As pressure is applied to an enclosed fluid, it will be transmitted undiminished, equally, to the area in all directions.” Her experiment is a success - and she goes one step further to explain what she could do to improve it: making a bigger elevator by using a bigger syringe. “Pressure equals force over area, so this syringe would give me greater area,” she correctly explains. Keep your eyes on this one: she’s a STEM leader in the making - and she’s only in middle school!


Amazing Hydro-Electric Power Collector

Kettner Griswold is a 16-year-old inventor who wants to change the world. This waterwheel is his solution for a local eco-friendly power source. “I got the idea that I could use rainwater to power some sort of electricity generating device,” he says about staring out the window on a rainy day. So he grabbed an old scooter, plastic bottles, and other recycled parts to make this waterwheel. It produces renewable energy from rainwater and stores power in a battery for later use in devices as big as electric cars. “I feel like if no one’s going to put the urgency on the problems in the world, I might as well,” he says. “I want to be remembered like Thomas Edison.” As a Theil 20 Under 20 Fellow, Griswold is certainly on his way (as are the other young inventors on this YouTube Channel).


8th Grade Roller Coaster Project

There are lots of roller coaster project videos out there, but few of them explain the science behind their build. This silent video by an 8th grader goes the extra mile. He built a coaster with 2 separate tracks and demonstrates it in action, using freeze frames to explain every step. From the opening “marbles ride up to the top using the Corkscrew lift” to the close-up shot of the switch he added “to direct marbles between the 2 tracks,” to explaining that the build was “powered by a TAMIYA Planetary Gearbox Set to add torque power to turn the Corkscrew elevator lift,” this video will make you want to build your own coaster.


Generating Electricity by Walking - Google Science Fair 2014

“Millions of footsteps land each second. Each step creates a great amount of force. Maybe it’s possible to harness electricity from our footsteps?” 15-year-old Angelo Casimiro asked himself this question while observing the need for electricity in his village in the Philippines. His answer was a pair of insoles that generate power from walking. “I only have 2 pairs of electric disks,” he explains, pointing to his prototype. “This generates electricity when both crystals bend inwards on back-to-back pairs.” He explains why he made the pairs back-to-back (“You’re able to harvest twice the power”), and even makes a bigger scale model to break down the science of the generator. The best part? His demo pair of insoles charged a powerbank after playing 2 hours of basketball. Casimiro was encouraged by his grandfather and spends his time competing (and winning) international robotics competitions. He also documents projects on that get re-posted on LifeHacker, Treehugger, and other major sites. This kid’s going to change the world.


Boy’s Science Fair Project Turns Into More Than a Grade

All 14-year-old Ethan Manuell wanted out of his science fair project was a good grade. What he got was a quick and easy way to extend the life of his hearing aid batteries. All he had to do was convert them to run his Hexbugs. “It’s a robotic bug,” he explains. “All it does is vibrate.” He noticed that the zinc batteries lasted longer if the user took off the protective tab and exposed the battery to air. “The more energized zinc you have, the longer it waiting 5 minutes, you can increase the lifespan by 85%,” he explains. “Most people don’t know this, and they pull the tab off, like it’s a sticker or something.” Manuell’s discovery has been endorsed by his local hospital, and will likely help millions of hearing aid users - including Ethan himself.


Elana Simon Google Science Fair Fibrolamellar Research

Elana Simon was 12 when she was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma - a rare destructive liver cancer. It was caught early and she survived by having most of her liver removed. She was only 16 when she decided to sequence the genome of the cancer to create the first-ever diagnostic test for the disease. “Through analyzing billions of base pairs from over 10 patients, I discovered a unique change in the DNA that seemed to cause this cancer.” Working beside the surgeon who cured her, Simon was able to identify “a deletion and a copy of a chromosome that left the head of one piece of DNA fused to the body of a different piece. This fused gene retained all of its activity, and worse, had nothing telling itself to turn off.” This fused chimeric gene is likely the cause of fibrolamellar, and identifying it has helped Simon and her surgeon pinpoint potential treatments. While experts initially told her her methods work with pediatric cancers, she stuck to her science. “After all, young people have fewer mutations in their DNA, and their tumors haven’t been around for decades if they haven’t been.” Simon is now a vocal advocate for the disease and a cancer-curing scientist in the making.


Raw Video: Marshmallow Launch at the White House Science Fair

Joey Hudy is a self-proclaimed maker, with multiple Arduino kits to his name. But his crowning achievement was when he shot a marshmallow cannon in the White House. “Would it hit the wall over there?" Would it stick?,” President Obama asked after Hudy explained its 170-foot trajectory. “Yeah!” Hudy laughs, confident in his math. “Let’s try it!” President Obama encouraged. He cleared the room and helped Hudy pump the cannon to 30 PSI. Lo and behold, the cannon launched a marshmallow clear across the State Dining Room - just like Hudy said it would. The President was so impressed he took Hudy’s business card, “just in case.” Hudy has his own website, where he shares updates about all of his projects. 


Bonus: Adorable 3-Year-Old Periodic Table Expert Brielle

Chemistry has never been cuter. 3-year-old Brielle has not only memorized every element in the periodic table; she knows lots of facts about them. Check her out if you need a crash course. Highlight: She describes phosphorus as “a chameleon - that means it can be different things” and says “it can burn underwater. Isn’t that crazy?” Yes, Brielle. That certainly is crazy. 

Love science? Get involved at the ground floor of discovery and help make physics happen. Click here to explore science in the making.

Posted on: 12/21/15 10:31PM
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Laurie-Anne Vazquez
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#MakePhysicsHappen @fiatphysica

“Fiat Physica shall hand the steering wheel of scientific innovation to the public, allowing them to contribute to science, communication, and discovery directly.”

Szabolcs Marka

Chair of the Education and Public Outreach Committee, LIGO and Associate Professor of Physics, Columbia University
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