Hardware Store Science

Purdue University, in partnership with IvyTech and several Indiana High Schools, has developed a series of hands-on experiments appropriate for the introductory high school physical science course.  The test apparatus for each experiment is constructed by small teams of students using materials available from the local hardware store – hence, the name Hardware Store Science.

Students working with woodKey components of Hardware Store Science experiments are that the projects are hands-on, include basic making skills, integrate all components of STEM and most importantly are fun for the students.  In addition, the program addresses all of the required topics in a one-year introductory physical science course.  See Educational Perspective for additional discussion.

Hardware Store Science experiments can be connected to the High School evGrandPrix Education Program, where student teams design, manufacture and test electric go-karts that they then race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Indy500 festivities.  The go-kart activities can be part of (i) the physical science class via go-kart Friday, (ii) in an associated Engineering/Technology or Physics class or (iii) an after school club activity.   The science/math principles learned through the Hardware Store Science experiments are connected with the technology in the electric go-karts via go-kart Science Saturdays in the fall and Test-and-Tune events in the spring – all in preparation for the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.

There are 28 different experiments covering the important concepts of physics and chemistry (see List of Experiments).  Each experiment includes all of the needed instructional material, including reading, additional web resources, PowerPoint slides, experiment descriptions, construction instructions, quizzes/exams and assessment tools.

The introduction of basic ‘making’ operations is an important component of the course, e.g. how to use a hammer, drill, screw driver, etc.  This is an important prerequisite for students to enter the manufacturing and other technology based industries, which provide an excellent career pathway for many students.  These ‘making’ operations required for construction of the projects in Hardware Store Science are designed to be student/teacher friendly and to be used in the physical science classroom.  Instructional descriptions and videos of the various ‘making’ operation with hand tools and drill and jigsaw are provided (see Use of Hand Tools and Simple Power Tools).

Hardware Store Science experiments and their connection to the evGrandPrix electric go-kart program provide a new way to teach physical science – a way that better engages young people and more effectively teaches the important STEM concepts.


Stuart White, M-STEM Education Manager, Purdue University white152@purdue.edu

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