There were two experiments in physics that I really liked:
One was when we were split into teams and were told to build a boat out of one or two sheets of kitchen foil, the winner was the boat that could stay afloat with the heaviest weight. The other teams made boats like boats with bows, but I made ours like a small round ‘tray’ with walls. Ours won, and that was great because I remembered that if we spread the weight over a large area, things will stay up longer! That could have been my first attempt at “engineering” at around 12yrs old!
The other was when I was about 13 or 14, we had to make hot air balloons out of paper and heated up by tea candles (I think the health and safety policy back then was a little more relaxed?!), again, the winner was the one that flew up the highest and stayed up the longest. Ours shot up, drifted for a distance and landed on a roof of one of the school buildings (funnily enough, no one was upset by that…), and stayed there for a long while! Yeah we won that one too (I made ours into a cylinder instead of like a pear shape – as I felt that paper wasn’t strong enough for the shape of a real hot air balloon, and that was another ‘engineering’ approach of thinking, making, testing, and seeing it all work! Very rewarding!)
You might not believe this but when I was at school we could do experiments with Mercury and Magnesium. I think today these substances are kept well away from schools but I remember some cool stuff going on in chemisry and physics. Later at University we made a rowing boat out of concrete. That was a kind of experiment. We had to transport the finished item from Newcastle to Nottingham to show how it worked and race in it. Actually we had two boats and one broke in half on the motorway driving down so we left the bits in a ditch.