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Science fair project

9089 Views 21 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  CleverRat
There is going to be a science fair at my school. I was wondering if anyone has any ideas on projects I could do that involve my rats. I also have two gerbils and one idea I have is to attach some sort of speedometer thing to their wheel to test their activity level in the day/night. So gerbil projects would be fine too. I did a maze with my hamster for a science fair two years ago but that didn't work very well because he mostly just climbed out and wasn't interested in the food but it would probably work better with the rats. Those are the only ideas I have so any more ideas would be great or just any experiences with science projects involving rodents.
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Rat basketball and the power of positive reinforcement! http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=drnnulHw5CM
Depends on how many rats you have. Most would need at least four or five rats for an accurate project. maybe you could borrow a friend's rats for the project?
You could do something simple like: what color do rats respond to the best.
You could do something harder like seeing how long it takes for a rat to do a puzzle or a maze, versus a human. Like in Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.
Just an idea. Good luck. :)
I love the basketball idea but I don't know if my chubby male rats could do it. I have two rats and I know someone who also had two rats but they recently died. Maybe I could compare the rats with the gerbils somehow?
I've raised and trained 3 true shoulder rats. If you have one, I can think of several things you can do; if you don't I'd advise against taking your rats out in public, they are more likely to be terrified or run off than perform.

Best luck.
I love the basketball idea but I don't know if my chubby male rats could do it. I have two rats and I know someone who also had two rats but they recently died. Maybe I could compare the rats with the gerbils somehow?
Maybe, but to make it accurate, you should get some other types of rodents too, like hamsters, mice, degus etc
The reason I got into rats was because of a high school psych course. We clicker trained rats to ring a bell on command. It only involved a box, a bell, yogurt and a clicker. But I agree that if your rat isn't comfortable in crowds it might not be the best idea... The rats we had were raised in a classroom setting.
If your rats won't perform in public couldn't you just record it at home? When i did science fair projects the teachers provided cameras and other equipment to those who needed them. If you like mazes you could build a really complicated one and have a sort of battle of the wits between your rats and your gerbils?
I have brought my rats outside before and they like walking around in the grass, laying in a little carry sack, or going on my shoulder. They get nervous around strangers though so I would probably just take a video. I don't think a maze would work with my gerbils because they won't take treats from me when their outside the cage. I like the idea of a maze or some kind of training experiment. I like the ringing the bell idea but I don't know how I could make that into an experiment or a question.
What about something like peer pressure in rats? You could train one alone and then train the other in the presence of the already trained rat and see if it learns the trick faster. I always thought it would be cool to recreate the metacognition experiment but you would probably need a pretty advanced set-up.
Wow that is super cool! I don't think I could recreate that but it's very fascinating! I like the peer pressure idea too.
Here's a quick break down of what we did:

First, associate the sound of the clicker with a treat. We were to place the rat in a box (to be honest, its really just to keep them from exploring too much) and there was a small hole in the side where we would stick a spoon with yogurt or peanut butter. Click - treat - repeat. Click the clicker, immediately give the rat a treat. Keep doing that until he starts to anticipate the reward - ie; going over to the hole where the peanut butter comes out whenever he hears the click.

Next, insert bell. I'm talking one of those diner bells that you have to press the little knobs at the top. If rat investigates, click - treat. Basically you are going to be shaping the behavior after this. Keep working (10-15 mins at a time, no more) at it. Each day the rat has to get its paw/nose/body closer and closer to the top of the bell to earn the click - treat. There is a slightly frustrating period where the rat has no idea what else you want it to do- he touched the bottom of the bell, he touched the base, he got nothing, now he's wandering around the box or getting bored, etc. Some rats picked up on the behavior if you showed them, some it took smearing the peanut butter on top of the knob, there are a few ways to go about it.

If the rat rings the bell in any way shape or form during training, praise and treat like no tomorrow! Your neighbors and everyone on the block should know that your rat just rang this bell!

Just like with training any sort of behavior in any animal, it takes time a patience! But you and your rat are definitely capable :)

I should add - our time frame was something like 2 weeks we worked with the rats 10-15 mins a day, once a day. And skipping weekends. At the end of the experiment, my groups rat actually didn't pick up on the behavior. Another group's rat was doing it on verbal command. So it definitely does depend on the rat as well.
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Wow that sounds like fun. That's probably my top choice so Ill try to get it approved. I've done some clicker training with my rats just teaching them simple things like spinning or jumping over a mini hurdle. My method I used was just guiding them with the treat. So I'm guessing I would just train one rat or one rat at a time. Also, did you train female rats or male rats? Just curious.
I would definitely suggest having videos on hand. If you can get the rat to perform when the spectators come by, then great. But if your rat is tired or just disagreeable, then it might be an awkward session. Film the "behind the scenes" to show what you did to train the rat. Then the final product will predominantly be that video, and the spectators might be treated to a demonstration.

If you want to really mess with people's minds, you could have a little media presentation. Say you are giving a speech. After a couple of lines, advance the slide. The slide consists of a distinctive noise preceding an adorable picture of your subject. Slide goes blank. Keep talking. After a couple more lines, advance the slide. Again, distinctive noise preceding another adorable picture. Do this five or six times. Finally, conclude your speech and advance the slide. The slide consists of the same distinctive noise but there's no picture of a rat. It's just text that says, "Humans can be conditioned too." Hilarity ensues.
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We trained females because according to my teacher, "females are smarter" but I'm not sure thats true at all!

Hah, I like Kuildeous' idea as well! Its definitely true that humans are easily conditioned.
Its definitely true that humans are easily conditioned.
For which, as a fourth-grade teacher, I'm thankful.
I don't normally show off, but a couple of months ago I attended a club meeting and just happened to bring my daughter and Cloud along... A fellow club member, who isn't big on rats made the cynical remark that I should put my rat down outside and see what happens...

I put Cloud down next to me called her to heel and walked around the room with her, then I put my hand down and called her up on hand... stretched out my arm and said "shoulder rat" and she walked up my arm to my shoulder... and which point I responded to the gentleman and the room full of people all agape... "If I put her down outside, she will follow me until I call her up on hand and that's exactly what she will do..." To which he and several other people remarked that that was pretty cool...

When we all walked out, while everyone was watching I put cloud down on the ground so she could go potty, which she did, then she played in the snow with my daughter a bit before we left to go home...

Just because I don't usually like to show off, doesn't mean my shoulder rats aren't highly trained and capable... Fuzzy Rat commonly attracted large crowds, one of the activities we would do is get everyone to hold hands and form a circle, and she would run across everyone's arms and go shoulder to shoulder giving each person a little kiss along the way until she got back to me... Honestly, I never trained her to do that, she was an exceptional performer and a big show off. She just got the ring thing right away and added the kisses as a personal touch. To be entirely honest, half the time I didn't have a clue what remarkable thing she was going to do, I just played along while she showed off.

I suppose on the down side Fuzzy Rat also liked to eat disgusting things she found on the ground, but despite that peculiarity most folks found her quite charming. When we took her to the circus, we actually got complements from the horse and elephant trainers...

Like I said, if you have a good true shoulder rat, wowing a crowd is easy... you don't need a clicker or a maze... just walk her or him around at heel and put her or him through the basic paces you do every day... On the other hand with an untrained normal rat (not that that's in any way bad) things will go very wrong very fast.

Sand Beach Vacation Fun Shore

Just walking at heel, and posing for the camera... As soon as she saw a phone or a camera she would stop to pose... something else I don't remember teaching her, but she did it so much I think it was second nature for her.

Best luck.
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Wow that is awesome! I definitely want to train a shoulder rat in the future but I don't think my current rats have the right personality.
True shoulder rats are indeed rare, I wrote a rather long thread on the subject of how to do it. Basically you NEED a safe outdoor site... a place where your rat can't run away, hide or get killed and you start training there... Literally in a matter of hours to days, certain rats blossom... it's like they were born to explore and they are calm and excited to be outdoors, they look happy and they act like puppies in the yard... other rats become terrified or panic and most rats either attach themselves to you in fear or stay near or under shelter.

Just about all rats will eventually warm up to the safe site, but only the rats that show extraordinary promise and confidence should be groomed for true shoulder rat training and testing...

Folks ask me how can you tell which rat will become a TSR (true shoulder rat) and honestly, you can't until you get them to the safe site... There's no way to simulate the stress levels or the wide open spaces indoors. Most rats simply can't handle high stress levels, other rats literally wake up and become alive...

Outdoors Fuzzy Rat loved to climb trees and swing in the breeze... relaxed, munching tiny leaves and preening...

Tree Jungle Plant Branch Wildlife

She actually walked up to meet people she found interesting...
Water Fun Beach Play Summer

She would hike around exploring on her own...

Indoors, she was bored and either destroyed the house or slept...

It's all a matter of how your rat's brain is wired. Some humans go sky diving other folks won't even get into an airplane. The very best TSR's are skydivers....

Never assume anything about what your rat can do... always work at a safe site until you know for sure. Train and test. There's nothing safe about taking a rat outdoors, but you can stack the odds in your favor.
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