Plan a Good Science Fair Project
Doing a First-Class Project
A first-class science fair project has four major features:
- An original, high quality, scientific experiment
- Clearly and neatly displayed results and conclusions
- An attention-attracting display
- A scientific paper that tells everything about your project.
All four features are equally important.
Helps for planning and completing your project.
- Make a Timetable--It might sound silly now, but a good project has to be started, and started soon! It also needs to be finished.
- Find or make a calendar to write critical dates and information on. Mark the dates of your school’s science fair and the Flint Area Fair.
- Cross off days planned for family, club activities, and trips.
- Working back from the project due date, allow at least two weeks to write the final draft of your paper and create your display.
- Mark off a week for your rough draft and allow a few days for your teacher to review it.
- You need a large block of time to collect your data. Plants and seeds need weeks to sprout and grow. Are you planning to chart an activity for a month?
- Even simple experiments don’t work as you might expect them to the first time, or the second, or even the third time!
- Check off how much time you will need to collect your data at least twice.
- You are working backwards, so schedule a couple of weeks for library work, to write companies, or borrow equipment.
- Make time to fill out the application. It should be completed on line or mailed at least a week before you begin to collect your data. Completed forms should be reviewed with your adult sponsor, so add a week to your time frame.
- If you feel that you should have started two months ago, you may wish to narrow your topic for this year, and pick a long-range topic for next year. Many scholarship winners begin their projects during the summer.
Using the Scientific Method
Good scientists, young and old, study things they see in the world by looking for cause and effect. The scientific method tells how this is done. A guide to the scientific method is available on line and is included in the handbook. Follow this method and produce your own high quality scientific experiment.
Writing About Your Project
You will invest a lot of time and effort in your project. A bit more work will result in a first-class scientific report. Use the guide How to Write a Scientific Paper and write at least two drafts. Some of the first draft is written before and while you complete the experiment.
Presenting Your Project
Your hard work will not be noticed if your project does not grab the attention of the judges and the public. From among the hundreds of projects, yours must yell, “Hello, Judge. Look at me!”
Visually appealing, easy to see and read, graphics, charts and photographs can be very helpful. Displays that are too “busy” can be hard to read or understand.
Efforts that are appreciated and rewarded are:
- Well Organized Display: Arrange the presentation of your project so the judges can easily examine and understand the experiment and results. With one quick glance, a viewer should find the five necessary parts of your display: the title, the hypothesis, how you did your experiment, the data, and the conclusions.
- Your display must fit the given exhibit space. (See Rules and Regulations page.)
- An Appropriate Title: Your title is what the judges see first. It should be more than a beginning. A good title grabs the attention of the casual observer. It is short, yet it correctly and completely describes the entire project. A good title begs the people to look at the project and dig deeper. Do not disappoint them.
- The title should tell exactly what your project is really about. It should agree with, and might even be the question that you develop in part E of the Scientific Method.
- Well Presented, Appropriate Data:
- Home built equipment, neat and colorful headings, graphs and tables draw attention to your project. Photographs can sometimes be helpful.
- The careful use of contrasting colors helps. For filling in charts and bar graphs, construction paper cutouts look better than crayon colored white paper. For line graphs, use different colored markers instead of pencils.
- Give extra attention to the labeling of graphs, charts, diagrams, and tables. Each item must have its own descriptive title, with columns, axes, and data clearly labeled and identified. A person should be able to understand each graph without having to read your paper.
- Since bar graphs, line graphs, and pie charts have different purposes, ask your math teacher to make sure you have the right graph to display your type of data.
- Correctly presented, well constructed:
- Construct your display observing size limitations, safety regulations, and the rules in this handbook.
- Do not clutter the project with unrelated junk and references.
- Your project won’t be seen if your display falls apart during the Fair weekend. It’s okay to ask an adult for help. Do not construct your display using ONLY poster board and tape. It will not stand up longer than a few hours.
- Display Boards. Light to medium duty display boards are available at local office supply stores. Made from corrugated cardboard that is white on one side, these boards have two folding wings for stability, and open to the legal project size. One company also offers packages of commonly used words like “conclusions” in colored plastic letters for about a dollar.
- If humans are used include the informed consent forms.
- The use of animals requires humane treatment and special forms that you should request now. Animals cannot be used in your display. (Read the safety rules carefully).
Some Available Resources
- Science Fair and Projects Grades 7–12
Published by the National Science Teachers Association
1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22201 (703) 243-7100
- How to Prepare a Science Fair Project (Videotape)
Published by United Learning (800) 424-0362
- 1001 Ideas for Science Projects
Published by Prentice Hall General Reference
5 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023
- The Big Book of Nature Projects
Published by Thames and Hudson
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
- How to Implement the Science Fair Self-Help Development Program in Schools
Published by David Menicucci, Science Fair Facilitator
Sandia National Laboratories, Organ, 6216
Albuquerque, NM 87185 (505) 844-3077
- The Complete Handbook of Science Fair Projects (Revised Edition)
Published by John Wiley and Sons
605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158-0012
- Computers: 49 Science Fair Projects
- Science For Kids: 39 Easy Animal Biology Experiments
- Science Fair: Developing a Successful and Fun Project
All three books published by TAB Books
Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17294-0850