Science Project using Lasers

I get a lot of questions about how to turn  “cool”  projects into a true science fair project, and lasers are one of the activities people really want to know about. So here are the basics:

The word “LASER” stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser is an optical light source that emits a concentrated beam of photons. Lasers are usually monochromatic – the light that shoots out is usually one wavelength and color, and is in a narrow beam.  By contrast, light from a regular incandescent light bulb covers the entire spectrum as well as scatters all over the room. (Which is good, because could you light up a room with a narrow beam of light?)  A laser controls the way energized atoms release photons.

Quick note about lasers: cheap key chain lasers (like from “dollar” or “thrift” stores) work just fine with these projects. Do not use green lasers – they can cause permanent eye damage.

For starters, take your laser and zip around the house before bedtime finding cool things to shoot your laser at (or through).  Try clear bottles filled with different liquids (soap, milky water, vinegar, rubbing alcohol etc.).  Try lamps, (dark) clear light bulbs, windows, cut acrylic or crystal pieces, CDs, eyeglasses, saran wrap, colored cellophane, feathers, aluminum foil, and the mirrors in the bathroom  Once you find a cool effect, start your scientific investigation by honing in on a question you want answered – something that came up when you were playing with your laser.

One question that pops out naturally when we teach the Lasers class for kids is: “Does the beam pass through the window or reflect back?”  And when looking up the answer, we found that it did both (during our research step), which triggered another question about how lasers interacted with mirrors, from which we formulated the question and later our hypothesis…

Hopefully this gives you ideas and gets you started!

Comments are closed.