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Make a Sundial Science Project



This article has information and instructions on how to make a sundial science project in two different ways. Keep reading for ideas and directions on how to make two sundial science projects. These sundial projects may be used for science fairs.

Introduction

This project presents two ways to make a sundial.

To extend the project, you can consider the following:

  • Explore ways to make your sundial easier to read (hint: consider adding more specific indicators and/or changing materials).
  • Locate your sundial in a place in which it can stay throughout the year. Notice what happens as the sun moves with the seasons. Adjust your sundial accordingly.
  • Consider the usefulness of a sundial versus a watch or clock. Make a case for each one.
  • Figure out a plan for a sundial that would work throughout the year.
  • Consider what other natural clues can help you know about the time of day when its cloudy and your sundial isn’t working. (Hints: behaviors of birds, flowers, bats, etc.)

Make a Sundial I

In this project, students build a simple sundial.

Materials

  • A 7 inch (17.75 cm) stick or dowel
  • 12 similarly sized small stones
  • An area about 2 by 3 feet (.6 x .9 m)
  • Optional: a small piece of board with a circular hole drilled in it for the dowel or stick to stand up in if your sundial is not on grass or dirt.
  • Timer set to go off every hour just before the hour

Directions

  1. Find a place for the sundial that receives full sun and has enough room.
  2. Set up the stick or dowel by shoving it into the ground or setting it in hole in the board.
  3. Decide what hours of the day your sundial clock will start and end at. Then, set the timer. Each time the timer rings, go to the sundial and place a rock at the end of the stick’s shadow. Depending on when you start your project, it may take you several days to get your sundial set.
  4. Test your sundial by looking at it and trying to tell the time instead of looking at a watch or clock. How close do you come?

Make a Sundial II

In this project, students construct a sundial that is portable. The construction element of this project is more complicated than for the first sundial.

Materials
A shipping box or cardboard envelope, or an empty cereal box, or other thin cardboard

  • A ruler
  • A protractor
  • A board that is about 1 x 1 ft (.3 x .3 m)
  • Adhesive or small carpet tacks and a hammer
  • Scissors or other cutting device
  • Pencil
  • Indelible marker or pen
  • Compass

Directions

  1. Using a right angle at the edge of the cardboard, measure 6 inches (15.25 cm) along each edge and mark.
  2. Using the ruler as a straight mark for cutting and cut, or simply cut the diagonal between the two marks.
  3. Place the triangle that you’ve cut flat on the table with the right angle to your right, and one of the six-inch sides facing you.
  4. Measure one inch (2.5 cm) into the triangle from the side facing you in two places and using the straight edge, draw a pencil line parallel to the edge facing you.
  5. Make a sharp fold on that line, lifting up the edge facing you to do so.
  6. Place the board in front of you. Place the folded section flat against the board, lining up the right angle of the triangle with the right edge of the board and putting the triangle halfway between the front and the back of the board. Tack it in place with the tacks, or glue it or tape it.
  7. Place the sundial outside in a sunny spot. Position it so that the high point of the triangle and the side of the board that it’s on face south, as indicated by the compass.
  8. Decide what hours of the day your sundial clock will start and end at. Then, set the timer. Each time the timer rings, go to the sundial and stand on the south side. Look at the side of the shadow that is nearest to you (unless it is noon, in which case the shadow will be pretty much a line) and mark the spot where that side of the shadow intersects with the edge of the board with the time. Write small. Depending on when you start your project, it may take you several days to get your sundial set.
  9. Test your sundial by looking at it and trying to tell the time instead of looking at a watch or clock. How close do you come?