Science Fair 911 – Choose a Topic & Project Ideas
By Guest Blogger Debbie Leibold
Sometimes the hardest part of the entire science fair is figuring out what you want to do for your project. I know from personal experience with my own sons that it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have to do something amazing in order to make the project worthwhile. My sons’ best projects have revolved around their interests and were really quite basic, but used the scientific method to answer a question. A few years back, my older son (a competitive golfer) wanted to know if a warm or a cold golf ball traveled farther so he ran some tests to find an answer. My younger son created the Helmet Crash-The Melon Test experiment as a response to a lot of information on the news about ski accidents and people not wearing helmets. These were not complicated questions, but they were ideas that interested my kids.
In trying to come up with your own idea, ask yourself a basic question: What are you interested in? Brainstorm a list of topics in a notebook or journal. Your ideas don’t have to be worthy of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They can be as simple as the sport you like to play or the food you like to eat. Think about how you might be able to turn one of those topics into a project.
Many science fair topics are based on broad areas of science. Consider finding a narrow topic in one of these areas:
- Physical Science
- Life Science
- Behavioral and Social Science
- Earth and Environmental Science
- Math and Computer Science
Use your resources—ask your friends, family, teachers, and experts in the field to help you narrow down your area of interest and create a question that you can answer by using the scientific method. Remember, if you choose a topic that is too broad, you may never finish your experiment! Find one specific area of interest and become an expert.
Whatever you do, don’t just take someone else’s idea and copy it. That is not what real scientists do! Real scientists look at ideas and put new twists on them. They think about what they might have done differently and then run tests to see what happens if they make some changes. They try something new to come up with their own discovery.
What do you want to find out? When writing your question, consider the following:
- Is it do-able? Can I answer the question?
- Would I be able to document my answer?
- How would I find my answer?
- What materials would be needed and how much would they cost?
- Do I have enough time to find the answer before the science fair?
- Is there any part that would be unsafe or dangerous?
- Will I need adult supervision?
- Is this too basic or too complicated of a question for someone my age?
- Most importantly, is my question interesting and original?
If you want some other project ideas, check out the science fair section on www.SteveSpanglerScience.com. We have lots of sample projects for you to review, but also some great information about the scientific method, variables, display boards, and other helpful tips for creating your best science fair project ever!
Be sure to check back here on the blog at www.SteveSpanglerScience.com/blog every Monday for more helpful hints about science fair.
I love this series and am looking forward to it. Science is such a mystery to so many people that when fairs come up people really need to KISS and focus on a question that interests them to go through the scientific method to test what they are doing. The purpose of the fair is this method, not flashy, painted props – but how questions are asked and tested. I love it when what looks like super easy projects win or are regarded highly because the emphasis was on the method, not the “marketing”.
What a helpful post for students and parents facing a Science Fair! Bookmarking.