Shawn's 10 Easy Steps to Science Fair Success
By Dr. Shawn
So you've got a science fair
project due. Don't worry. Whether you love science or wish
Newton had never been born, a science fair project can be a
great experience. The secret is knowing how to get started
and how to keep moving until your project is finished. To
help you, I've assembled this list of the ten essential
steps you'll need to create a science fair project that will
kick tail come judging day.
If you follow these simple
steps, you'll not only achieve science fair success, but
you're likely to have a lot more fun with a lot less
Step 1: Select
First, you'll need
select a great science fair topic.
What makes for a
great topic? We'll, since science encompass the entire
Universe, just about anything can be the basis for a
championship science project. Just remember two things. The
science project needs to be interesting to you,
personally. And secondly, it needs to be something that is
simple and easy to carry out.
please check out my
Most Important Secrets to Science Fair Success."
Step 2: Do Your Homework
your topic, learn
as much as you
Internet is likely
to be your best resource. You can use the many search
engines available to find information. Or try
Super Science Science
Links page with a vast amount of links to various
science related sites on the Internet.
Whatever you do,
don't forget about your
library. The Web
generally contains only general information. If you want to
get into the advanced details of some subject, text books
written by world experts are by far the best references.
Also, if you want to look up any research papers you find
referenced in your study material you will probably have to
head into the stacks to find them.
Also, always make
sure you introduce yourself to the reference
librarian as soon as you walk through the door.
Their job is to help you find the information you're
looking. Consider them your secret weapon
for science fair success so DON't BE SHY!
Step 3: Plan
Once you consider
yourself an expert about your topic, plan your road ahead.
Your plan should include the following:
Devise a simple and clear sentence that states the
purpose of your experiment. What do you want to find
out? Remember, the shorter the statement, the better it
what the "independent variable(s)" will be in your
experiment. That is, what things or conditions
(temperature, light, amount of fertilizer in the soil,
noise, etc.) that you are going to change to see how
whatever it is that you are testing (seedlings, a
mechanical clock, the ability to shoot hoops, etc.)
If you think
you know enough to have a good idea about what may
happen, then make an educated guess as to what you think
will happen. We call an educated guess like this an
"hypothesis." Remember, your experiment will test your
hypothesis. That is, it might prove it wrong, but it can
never prove it to absolutely unquestionably
right. Science advances when scientists set out to prove
ideas wrong. If the idea withstands rigorous testing,
only then should you have any confidence in it.
need to devise a
procedure outlining exactly how you will conduct the
Remember, doing science is all about NOT FOOLING
YOURSELF! So ask yourself at each step what you need to
do to make absolutely certain that errors or outside
influences aren't creeping in that can affect your
experiment without you knowing about it. This is the
most critical part of the whole process!
Finally, think about the data you
are going to get. How will you make sense of it? What
will you do to figure out what it all means? Will you
average it, plot it, find its standard deviation? You
must know in advance what you will do to analyze you
data, lest you fall into the trap of looking at the
results, and then selecting a method of analyzing it
that unfairly favors your hypothesis. There may be no
easier way for you to fool yourself!
Step 4: Prepare
Gather together everything
you will need to carry out your experiment. Get everything
set up and negotiate with family members for any time and
space you will need to complete the experiment. (Need to
borrow the corner of your brother's closet to grow your test
plants? Make sure everyone in your family knows and agrees
before you start your experiment.)
Whatever you do, don't
forget to secure your own personal science research
journal from your local office supply store. Your
science notebook will be your most valuable
aid you have. In it, you will summarize your Internet and
library research, detail your hypothesis, carefully describe
your experiment's design, record all your data, and work
through all your analysis. When something unexpected
happens, you must write that down as well. Your goal should
be to write down enough information so that someone reading
your notes would be able to exactly duplicate what you did.
Remember the old Chinese
saying: No memory is as firm as faded ink!
Have you ever been certain
of some fact only to discover that you had remembered it
wrong? So never rely on memory! Your personal motto when it
comes to laboratory notebooks (your's or anyone else's)
should be, "If it isn't in the log book, it didn't happen."
Now, follow your
written plan. While conducting the experiments make
you keep detailed notes on everything that you observe.
take pictures or make sketches of your observations whenever
doing so would make things clearer.
And don't forget
to think about the display that you will eventually need to
make to show off your work to the science fair judges. Your
notes and your photos be vital!
Step 6: Figure Out What Happened and
What it Means
As soon as
are finished with
experiments, its time to
organize your notes.
to recopy your notes so that they are more organized and can
be easily understood by others.)
Ask yourself, what
the results agree with your hypothesis?
Make graphs and
that will help you "see" what the data mean.
Step 7: Write Your Report
Write a detailed
report about your project.
Tell exactly what
you did, how you did it, and what you discovered. Be sure
you write all about your plan and your experiment. Include
your data, and perhaps some charts and graphs to help
readers interpret the information. Be sure you also include
some of the background information you learned. For More
Winning Science Fair Report
Step 8: Make Your Display
No matter how good
your experiment, you can't expect to win your science fair
without a killer display.
crucial because it is your vehicle to connect with the
judges and let them know just what a good job you did. The
display must be neat and well organized. It should include
background information, the problem, your hypothesis, your
procedure, your results, your conclusion, your report, and
graphs and charts. You can also include photos or drawings
of your experiments. For more information on creating your
my Web page titled
in the Trenches.
Step 9: Rehearse Your
You're going to
presentation to the judges.
So remember the Boy Scout Motto--"Be Prepared."
what you are going to say before you have to say it. By
rehearsing your presentation over and over.
Pretend you're lecturing to a large audience that has come
to find out about your experiment. Explain it to them again
and again until you can do so clearly and effortlessly.
Imagine them asking you questions. How will you answer? When
you're comfortable with your presentation and can answer any
reasonable question you can think of, then go to phase two.
two is to find people to play the role of the judges.
Start off with
friends and family members, but try to find some people who
are as knowledgeable about science as your judges are likely
to be. Doing you presentation for them
give you the
self-confidence that will keep your calmer and more composed
science fair day than your competition.
presentation is absolutely essential if you want to win.
You'd hate to do all the hard work to carry out a killer
project only to lose because you couldn't explain yourself
clearly before the judges, right?
Step 10: Kick Tail!
Stand and deliver.
At the science
fair, be as calm and professional as possible. Dress
smart. Take yourself seriously and you will be taken
seriously by others.
Be prepared, be
be confident, and you will do great!