3D cell model project ideas

Written by hannah wahlig
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3D cell model project ideas
Cell models identify and explain microscopic cell parts. (blood cells image by Marko Kovacevic from Fotolia.com)

Cells are comprised of an intricate system of parts that work together to perform a variety of essential functions -- and they enable body systems to operate correctly. To illustrate the complexity of a cell's parts, create a three dimensional model that enlarges the microscopic components of a cell. Both plant cells and animal cells can be transformed into interactive or demonstrative models that identify and explain cell parts.

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Plastic bag cells

Use plastic bags to create three dimensional interactive cell models. Choose a large bag that has a secure zipping closure. The bag itself represents the cell membrane or, in the case of a plant cell, the cell wall. Select a variety of objects to represent the cell parts: rubber balls, elastics, string and jelly babies can be used to represent the cell nucleus, ribosomes, chromosomes and mitochondria. Fill the bag with a viscous transparent liquid like vegetable oil, baby oil or corn syrup -- the liquid represents the cell's cytoplasm. Seal the bag and then glue the seal with rubber cement or epoxy to prevent leaking. You can also place the cell model into an additional plastic bag for extra protection. Sticker labels can be used to identify various cell parts, though because the part may move, a written guide of the symbols and parts that they represent is also an option.

Gelatine cells

Gelatine can be used to create a versatile and edible cell model. Clear gelatine prepared in a clear glass bowl serves as a basic model; a flavoured gelatine like lemon or lime creates a more colourful model that still offers some visibility. Before the gelatine sets completely, drop objects into the gelatin to represent the relevant cell parts like the nucleus and mitochondria. To keep the mould fully edible, choose various kinds of sweets, jelly tots and jelly babies treats to represent cell parts. Once the mould is complete, either leave it in the glass bowl or turn it upside down onto a large plate. Use toothpicks and sticker labels to create flags which identify each cell model part.

Styrofoam cells

Styrofoam craft balls are an ideal material for making three dimensional cell models because they come in a variety of sizes and can be easily carved and painted. Choose a large styrofoam ball at least 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter to serve as the basic cell structure. Halve the large ball and secure a smaller ball painted in a different colour into the centre of one flat side to represent the cell nucleus. Carved and painted pieces of scrap styrofoam represent each cell part; secure them to the model with tooth picks and label them with markers or stickers. Additional craft mediums such as yarn, buttons, gems and pipe cleaners can also be used in a styrofoam model.

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