With Science Fair right around the corner for most students, we thought we’d share some tips compiled from former Science Fair Regionals qualifiers and award winners. Whether you want to win a placement at regionals, do well at your school’s science fair, or just make the A for your science class, we’ve got you covered with these six tips.
1. Ask a Scientific Question
This is the most important tip, and that’s why it’s first. Having the right type of project is the main thing judges are going to grade, and if you don’t do it right, you’re going to be out of the game before it even starts. Your experiment should have one variable — the independent variable — and you need to measure the effect of changing that variable on a second variable — the dependent variable. For example, you could ask:
How Does the Amount of Sunlight Affect Plant Growth?
In this case you would be changing the amount of sunlight each plant receives, and measuring the effect of that change on the height of the plant. Because sunlight is the only thing you want to change, any other factor becomes a constant: each experiment must have the same type of plant, same soil, same pot, same water, same temperature, same any other thing you can think of. You want to isolate sunlight into the only thing that could be affecting the plant.
How does ________ affect _________?
Does _______ have an impact on _______?
What is ______?
How does _________ work?
MAKING A MODEL VOLCANO IS NOT A SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT!!!!! 🙂
2. Choosing a Good Topic
Now that you understand the general type of project you need to do, you just need to pick a specific topic. We recommend picking a topic you are interested in, or at least a topic you’ll have a good time learning about, for obvious reasons. If you don’t already have a topic in mind, you can take inspiration from Science Buddies.
Here you can filter through project ideas based on area of science, grade level, cost, or time, which is great for finding the right project for you. Just keep in mind, every other person can look this up too, so you might not want to directly copy a project. Put your own twist on it; make it your own!
3. Qualitative vs Quantitative Data
Qualitative Data is data based on qualities. Examples include emotion, taste, and basically anything else that relies on your senses.
Quantitative Data is based on quantities, or things you can measure. Examples include length, time, and weight.
It is best to create an experiment where your dependent variable can be measured with quantitative data. I remember that, personally, this was the main thing that held my project back in 3rd and 4th grade. In my 3rd grade project, my dependent variable was how bright a light was. You can’t really measure that without advanced equipment, so it really came down to personal judgment. I made the same mistake in 4th grade, where my dependent variable was how rotten a banana was. Again, that’s not something you can really measure. It was not a coincidence that I did not qualify for the Regional Science Fair either of those years. On the other hand, my 5th grade project, which won an award at regionals, had time as a dependent variable.
If that just killed your original idea, don’t immediately give up. You can actually devise a quantitative way to measure a qualitative trait! In fact, scientists invented the IQ test as a numerical way to measure intelligence!
4. Plan Your Time the Right Way
It’s obvious. In fact, it’s so obvious that you may need a reminder to actually do it! The entire science fair project is a huge task, so you need to break down your project into smaller pieces with different deadlines for yourself, whether your teacher did that for you or not. For example:
- By (date), choose a topic
- By (date), have your research done
- By (date), have your experiment designed
- By (date), perform your experiment and record your results
- By (date), have your presentation completed
Make sure to give yourself enough time to do everything!
5. Looks Count!
The judges may or may not grade how nice your presentation looks on their rubrics, but it nonetheless affects how they think of it subconsciously, so make a good impression! You can make borders, use a variety of colors, and honestly anything else as long as it doesn’t affect how readable and understandable your presentation is. If you don’t know what to do, you can always hunt for inspiration on Google Images!
6. Be Ready to Talk to Judges
When you inevitably present your project, be ready to answer some questions from the judges. It helps if you think through some questions they might ask and how you would respond beforehand. You can also show your presentation to your older siblings or parents, and see if they have any questions. To get you started, here are a few questions pretty much everyone will get:
- How did you come up with this idea?
- Why did you design your experiment the way you did?
- Does your experiment have any real-world applications/relevance?
- If you were to do your experiment again, would you change anything about it?
If you get a question you weren’t prepared for, don’t panic! Just answer as best as you can.
Thanks for reading! We hope we’ve helped you avoid some common mistakes and set you up for success. If you enjoyed, make sure to follow the blog to not miss out on new articles and updates twice a month. Good luck at Science Fair!
This article was written by Kyler Shu, a writer at Robin’s Nest. Kyler is a current sophomore at Lubbock High School. In addition to Robin’s Nest, he is involved in Science Bowl and UIL competitions.
This article was edited by Helen Xie, an editor at Robin’s Nest. Helen is currently a sophomore at Lubbock High School and is involved in many extracurriculars in addition to volunteer work, including Model UN and Robotics.