"The Way Things Go" is a wonderful short film of a chain reaction put together in some large warehouse.
You can see a short clip of it here
Anyways, I show this to the troops any time I need to kill ten minutes or maybe at the end of term. I usually end up having to pry them out of teh classroom.
At some stage I was asked 'why can't we do that'?, and I thought 'Well why not'?
So recently I gave the task to my transition years, and they have taken to it like no other project or experiment they have ever done (in physics at least).
They have to come up with their own design, use their own resources, it can be as simple or as complex as they wish.
In fact as an engineering project it is very useful because those who initially wanted everything in it, quickly realised how unpractical this is.
There is also serious teamwork involved, and whose who plan in advance tend to do best.
The most successful so far have been the teams who go for short simple parts.
They can they put the final project together inside teh lab or outside in a field. We video it, and they vote for the best project.
I used to be uncomfortable with this, primarily because I was handing over the class to the students, and therefore I had less control, but now I can see so many benifits that I would be very upset if I couldn't use this any more.
So for any other physics teachers out there (and there's no reason why it has to be just physics) why not give it a go?
We could always compare projects and have an inter-school challenge!
You don't need any equipment, budget, or even much preparation on your part; it is, as they say, a win-win situation.