One important quality that all scientists share is a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world we live in and the universe beyond it.

Though we often associate scientists with activities that are outside of the realm of ordinary experience, in fact, some of the most important work in science is much closer to the everyday than it is to the exotic. Indeed, scientists tend to be people who don’t take the everyday for granted: people who can find lots of interesting questions to ask about even simple principles, experiences, and objects, and who recognise that even the most commonplace items you can find around your home— a paperclip, an egg whisk, an elastic band  — are packed with really interesting physics, chemistry, and materials science.

This is a science challenge that takes its inspiration from the wonder of the everyday: The Catalogue of Everyday Science is your opportunity to contribute your own original work to a book documenting the science we use in our day-to-day lives.

What do you have to do?

What we’re asking you to do is choose an everyday object  — something you have at home or at school — and then produce a single A4-size page covering the following points:

  1. What is your object? You should describe carefully what your object is and draw us a picture.
  2. How is your object made, and what materials is it made from?
  3. What science is involved in making your object work? Tell us about the scientific principles that underpin how it functions.
  4. Finally, why did you choose it? What inspired you?

As far as possible you should produce your page by hand rather than on the computer. Try to make it eye-catching and informative for the reader.

You can choose any object you like but take some time to decide and try to be original! We recommend you make a plan of your page before you put pen to paper and try to think carefully about the key messages you would like to get across to the reader.

A special presentation copy of The Catalogue of Everyday Science including everyone’s contributions will go on public display at the History of Science Museum in Oxford and everyone who participates will receive their own copy and be our guests at a fantastic book-launch party.

sources of Information

Sources of information

You can find lots of information about the science that lies behind everyday objects online. You will find it easiest to locate the information you need if you think carefully about what you are looking for before you search. Developing techniques for searching information out efficiently is actually a really good skill to practise — all scientists have to do a lot of this!

As an example, I am going to show you how I might go about looking for information about the humble (but really fantastic) elastic band.

If I simply google “elastic band”, the results I get are not very helpful: most of the hits are pages trying to sell me elastic bands.

However, if I google “how are elastic bands made”, the story is completely different, I get some really interesting links:

There are even some very cool videos.

Similarly if I google “science behind elastic bands”…or “history of elastic bands”… I get links to a lot of really good information.

Some more tips:

  • Wikipedia is often a useful resource but, if you can, try to use other sources too.
  • There are lots of sites that provide really engaging information but a source that is good for one topic might not be great for another — this is why it’s important to think carefully about the question you want to answer before you search.
  • Don’t start to write your project page until you have gathered all your information together and planned how to lay it out. An example of a page plan is shown below. You don’t have that much space so you’ll need to think carefully about what to include.
  • Make sure you put the information you find into your own words: don’t just copy it off the page where you find it. Just like honing your search skills, condensing information and putting it into your own words is really good practise!

Submit your response

Ask an adult or carer to submit your response here. Pictures and videos must be of artwork and have no people in them.