Sunday, November 29, 2015    Contact

Irondale Physics Fair 2015

"We only think when confronted with a problem."
-John Dewey

Irondale's 12th Annual!
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What is Physics Fair?

The Irondale Physics Fair is a long-term group project in which student groups assemble five components into a chain reaction sequence, putting into practice principles of physics and engineering.
Physics Fair has three primary goals:
  • Demonstrate understanding of physics concepts illustrated by the projects
  • Develop fundamental skills in the engineering of a project
  • Gain experience in project focused group dynamics

All Irondale physics students (approximately 200) will be presenting the results of their many weeks of effort.
When: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
5:00 - 9:00 pm (open for public viewing at 6:00)
Where: Irondale High School Gymnasium
Who: All Irondale Physics and AP Physics Students

Project overview handout available here.

Design Requirements

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  • Project must be contained on a 4' x 2' plywood base
  • There must be a total of three levels, having a total area of at least 8 square feet, each elevated at least 6 inches above the previous level.
  • Five total components (4 provided, 1 student generated)
  • A component is a self-powered, non-gravitational device that can be activated or turned on.
  • Parallel path chain reactions are permitted, however there must be at least 3 components in sequence between the group prior and the following group.
  • There can be no "dead-ends" in the chain reaction sequence.
  • A successful chain reaction is one that triggers the final component that would then activate the next group's project
  • A successful class chain reaction is one in which each group's chain reaction successfully triggers the next group, the final group launches a ping-pong ball to the first group (or other preapproved action), all without intervention.
  • From start to finish, the chain react must last at least 10 seconds.
  • All components need to be activated by the chain reaction; they cannot already be running.
  • All group members must remain at the Physics Fair until your class' chain reaction and clean up are complete
  • A full page, computer generated flow chart, without abbreviations, must be posted on the project.
  • There can be no fire, explosions, gas engines, hazardous chemicals, live animals.
  • Sharp objects are allowed, but must be used sensibly.
  • No electrical outlets are available and no extension cords are allowed.
  • Take everything home that you bring.

Project Design Reports (PDR)

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Each PDR is designed to move each group through the project at a reasonable pace. The PDRs are each group's opportunity to demonstrate all that has been accomplished up to that point. Each PDR will be similar in format and have some common features, but each will also have certain unique requirements.
Even if your entire group cannot meet together, don't let that hold you back from making progress. If two of you can meet together, then do it! Your other team members should then make it a point to contribute in other ways (obtaining materials, brainstorming, planning, writing, etc. -- be creative!). No one likes to carry dead weight! Find out more about social loafing.


A crucial skill in the process of engineering a project is adherence to a strict timeline. Therefore, the deadline is class time for any given due date. Broken printers, computers, cameras, missing group members, e-mail malfunctions, etc. are all unfortunate, but are not excuses for a late PDR or a lack of video documentation of progress.
Although there is a penalty for any PDRs that are submitted late, there is an incentive for submitting a PDR early. The professional world often offers a financial benefit to an early project completion. We cannot offer a financial benefit, but we can offer a bonus point incentive for submitting PDRs #2, 3, and/or 4 at least one day prior to its deadline.

Video documentation of progress must accompany each PDR. Lacking video documentation results in a late PDR, the score of which will be reduced 25%. There are no exceptions.




Primary Goals


Fri, 2/6


  • Complete assembly of all four components.
  • Identify how the four components illustrate Newton's three laws of motion and frictional effects.

Fri, 2/20


  • Add second and third levels
  • Demonstrate three components interacting on 4'x2' base
  • Create full page operational sequence flow chart (example)
  • Refine component interactions

Mon, 3/2


  • Identify and explain physics concepts illustrated by your project
  • Demonstrate a complete chain reaction (all five components)
  • Ensure reliability of interactions
  • Refine operational sequence and corresponding flow chart
Mon, 3/9
  • Demonstrate final status of project
  • Test reliability of chain reaction sequence
  • Determine your chain reaction's success rate

For PDR #2, #3, and #4, video documentation must be submitted as specified by your teacher.

Component Hints (construction & chain reaction)

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Irondale High School - 2425 Long Lake Road, New Brighton, MN 55112
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