Time To Start Thinking About the Big Science Fair Project!

Topping it up (1)It is that time of year again for students and teachers to begin to organize their school Science Fairs!  Just the thought of a science fair project can make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.  Have no fear. This guide is written in a student-friendly style. It will present you with the basic building blocks needed to create a successful, painlessly easy project.

The depth and creativity of the project is left up to you. Using the guidelines set out in this manual, you will be able to submit a scientifically sound science fair project that will fulfill all of the requirements desired by your (or your child’s) teacher.  For more science fair tips and project ideas, visit Science Fair Sanity!

Steps to a Successful Science Fair Project covers the basics of the scientific method. It explains each of the six steps and how to apply each concept to a science fair project.

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
The scientific method is a step-by-step approach that helps scientists (AND STUDENTS!) find solutions to problems and explain things that they do not understand. A scientist uses the same steps each time they want to find an answer, no matter what type of problem it is.

These steps are as follows:
1. PURPOSE – What do you want to learn?
2. RESEARCH – Find out as much about your topic as you can.
3. HYPOTHESIS – Predict the answer to the problem.
4. EXPERIMENT – Design a test to confirm or disprove your hypothesis.
5. ANALYSIS – Record what happened during the experiment.
6. CONCLUSION – Was your hypothesis correct?

These six steps are essential to completing a top-notch science fair project. Without successfully completing anyone of these steps, your project will be incomplete. Other concepts (e.g. procedure, problem, data,material, results, etc.) can be used as sub-categories under these six main headings. Let us now take a deeper look into each of these steps that
make up the scientific method.

PURPOSE
All science fair projects begin with the question, “What do I want to find out?” Think about what it is that interests you. Science happens all day, everyday around each and every one of us. Curiosity might arise from reading an article in a book or a magazine. It could stem from something you noticed while hanging out at the bus stop or in the lunchroom.

There are two types of science that can be explored: physical (chemistry/physics/etc.) or life (biology). Use these guidelines to help choose your problem:
1. Keep the project specific and focused. General statements make it hard to find answers.
2. Rewriteyour statement until it saysexactly what you want it to say.
3. When your statement is finished, be sure it makes sense and you can find enough research materials to answer
your question.

Good Questions: What causes a plant to grow? Can the sun be harmful to humans?
Bad Questions: Will a hurricane hit the coast of Florida in 2025? Which good luck charm is the luckiest?
RESEARCH
Research is critical to the scientific method. Ask yourself, “Where am I going to find the information on my topic?” This is where you have to do a little detective work. Information can be found in all types of places. A good place to start is the library. They have all kinds of books and articles on more topics than you or I could ever imagine. There is probably a whole bunch of people who have spent their entire life doing the detective work for you. All you have to do is find where it is that they wrote the information down.

Have a fear of libraries? No worries. Here are a few other places to gather clues:
1. Internet websites (try SCHOODOODLE.COM or SCIENCEFAIRSANITY.COM)
2. People (those guys and gals that spent their entire life investigating the same topic that you are using for your project did it because they have a love for it. They might like nothing more than to share that passion with you! Give ‘em a call or send a letter!!)
HYPOTHESIS
After you have conducted thorough research, the problem can be turned into an answer to your question. Construct a sentence that states, This is what I think will happen.” All hypotheses should include these parts:
1. the purpose of the experiment
2. what is being measured
3. conditions
4. expected results

Try to form statements that sound similar to these:
1. “Water will evaporate sooner in the sun than in a shady location.”
2. “Fungus can be grown on household items, unassisted, under certain circumstances.”
3. “Short-term memory varies based upon gender.”
My Hypothesis: ————————-

EXPERIMENT
This step is your actual science fair project! In this step you will be testing your hypothesis to see if it is correct. Ask yourself, “What kind of test will I design to confirm what I think will happen.” In other words, “how am I gonna figure out if I’m right?” In order to create a successful experiment, you will need to include the following steps:

1. Use instruments that measure: scales, thermometers, stopwatches, yardsticks, gauges, or any instrument appropriate for the experiment.
2. Decide which controls and variables should be used. A control is a standard that you can apply to all parts of an experiment. A variable is the part of a test that you change. For example, if you were studying shadows, the control would be the location you do the test and the variable would be the time of day.
3. Determine the length of the experiment. Howlong should it last?
4. Use trial and error. A true scientist believes that all errors are important.
5. Incorporate replication. The results must be repeatable if they are to be trusted.
6. Be a good observer. If you do not pay attention to the entire experiment, you might miss something important.
7. Measure exactly. Too much or too little could change all of the results and make them inaccurate.
ANALYSIS
In this step ask the question, “What happened?” It is necessary to have a notebook for a log so that you can record the following:
1. Data collected.
2. Observations made during the experiment (for comparison when you repeat the experiment).
a. What steps were important for the experiment?
b. What did I do that had the greatest effect on the experiment? The least? No effect?
c. What facts, numbers, or information developed from the experiment?
3. Events and any changes throughout the experiment.
4. Errors noted.
5. Tentative conclusions.

CONCLUSION

At the conclusion of the experiment, you should ask, “What did I find out?” Here is a chance for you to tell what it is that you learned from the experiment. The conclusion should be as brief as possible. Questions that a judge might ask you in order to determine what you have learned are as follows:
• Did the results of your experiment confirm or deny your prediction?
• Are there any questions or issues that remain unanswered?
• Are there any changes that could have been made?
• As a result of the experiment, are there any suggestions or new questions to test?
• Was the experiment important? Why or why not?
• Did you have fun?!?

JUDGING
You have now invested a lot of time and effort into your science fair project. You think that it is great, but what will the judges and your teacher think? Here are a few questions that judges ask themselves while evaluating your project.

Is the topic an original one?
Is the problem well defined?
Are the methods of experimentation clearly described?
Is the data displayed in a clear, concise manner?
Does the conclusion refer back to the hypothesis?
Is the presentation visually appealing?
How are the oral and written presentations? Does this student understand their project or did they simply copy information out of a book?

Do not be afraid to share your information. You want people to experience all that you have uncovered.
1) Write a detailed paper.
2) Display your information using various graphs and charts.
3) Acknowledge all of your sources.
4) Know your subject matter and give a confident oral presentation.

If you fully understand what it is that you studied, your presentation will be smooth and easy. Have no fear, you will do great!

P.S…. SMILE!

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