University of Kentucky,
Tenth Annual (2012-2013)
CENTRAL KENTUCKY REGIONAL SCIENCE and ENGINEERING FAIR
** Preparing the Science Fair Project **
Here are are some very good tips provided by NACKES
What's the point?
- communicate information clearly and effectively.
- see how science plays a part in every aspect of their lives.
- use their creativity in answering questions or solving problems.
- explore different ways of learning.
- gain confidence about their abilities to gather and present information.
- become familiar with scientific procedures and terms.
Getting an idea
Often the most difficult part of a science project is the first: the idea. There are many sources to use to come up with ideas. Use as many ways as possible to come up with ideas. Think about:
Magazines - Check the table of contents in magazines, especially science magazines to see what leading researchers are doing.
Internet - What are people on-line discussing in the realm of science? What web sites deal with topics of interest to science and provide useful information? Are there links to a specific area of interest? See the site www.cinsam.org for links to some interesting sites.
Television Programs & Videotapes - Do they cover an area of interest that applies locally or feature the work of scientists in a certain discipline?
Community - What is happening locally that uses or might benefit from scientific inquiry?
Family - Talk to family members, neighbors, and friends about their work and how science plays a part in their lives or could influence their lives.
Events - Visit public events such as fairs, expos, and lectures to learn about recent scientific developments and their impact on society.
Museums, Parks, Historical Sites - Visits to these places may suggest an idea for a project.
Discussion - Talk with friends and classmates to generate ideas.
Books - Science Fair project books are available in many libraries and in NKU's Learning Resource Center in business/Education/Psychology 268.
PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED:
"DOES PHILODENDRON GROW BETTER IN NATURAL SOIL OR IN ARTIFICIAL SOIL?"
An important first step is setting a schedule. This helps students budget their time and meet necessary deadlines. It is best to start at the date a project or report is due and work backwards. Students will want to keep a calendar and consult with their teacher to make sure their plan is on target.
For most students, the first stop will be the library, which will have a catalog listing its own books and publications related to the project topic. Reference books will also be available for an overview of the subject, although good research projects require many other sources of information. Nearly every library has The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which lists publications with articles on particular subjects. Technical and research journals will have the latest findings of researchers in many fields of science. Reference librarians often can help locate these research articles. Most libraries have computer terminals to check the catalogs of other libraries and can arrange for interlibrary loans.
Advanced research may be done at the technical libraries at universities, and these libraries often will have abstract publications on chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics, social sciences, energy, and the environment that may not be readily available in public libraries.
Most successful science fair experiments are controlled experiments where two groups of subjects are used. The experimental group receives the experimental treatment and the controlled group is treated the same way, except it does not receive the treatment. Comparing the heights of two plants, one given a specific fertilizer and the other given no fertilizer would be a controlled experiment.
Another popular type of experiment is the counter-balanced experiment. In this situation, only one group of subjects is tested, but they are tested using both the experimental and controlled treatments. Comparing the effectiveness of several household cleaners in cleaning pencil marks would be a counter-balanced experiment.
Case study and survey experiments also are found at science fairs, but are often not as competitive. A case study is the detailed observation or study of an individual or event, such as: does a pet cat prefer "Brand A" or "Brand B" cat food? A survey is the systematic sampling of opinions or a collection of data from a specific group (people, plants, animals, minerals, etc.), such as measuring the average brightness of a specific brand of light bulb.
The experimenter should log observations, including date and time as well as accurate and complete entries. Include all information; often an occurrence that at the time seemed unimportant may later explain some unexpected results. Some experiments may benefit from the use of a tape recorder, camera, or videocamera. Before beginning an experiment, list and locate all needed equipment.
data and drawing conclusions
Was the experiment a reliable test of the hypothesis? What is the relationship between the variables? Did sampling methods provide sufficient data? Were samples contaminated? Do certain trials or tests need to be repeated? Will the same results occur if the experiment is done again?
the result through the Science Fair display
- A title page, which accurately and specifically states what the topic is.
- A contents page to direct the reader to various sections of the report.
- An abstract page to summarize the central point report in as few words as possible.
- An introduction, including background, statement of the problem, and the hypothesis.
- An experimental design, which includes a description of the methods, materials, and experiments selected and an explanation of why they were chosen.
- An analysis of results, which includes tables, graphs, charts, and other materials that summarize results.
- A conclusion.
- A list of references, which includes books, articles in magazines, and scientific journals, web sites, videos, television programs, correspondence, and handbooks
- An appendix, if needed, to accommodate additional information such as data too extensive to include in results.
In addition to a written report, a project for a science fair should include a display. Accuracy is very important in displayed information, since it should represent the sequence of the report as well as be a graphic and concise representation of research.
Contents can vary depending on the nature of the project but usually include:
Background (including problem and hypotheses)
Design of the experiment
Experimental apparatus and samples if needed (Photographs illustrating apparatus and samples are preferred)
Participation in a science fair is challenging and requires dedication and effort, but it also is exciting and an experience to enjoy when looking back with pride on what has been accomplished!