Today, it's cool to not only know science but to show science. One great way to take advantage of a captive audience is to meticulously prepare a winning science fair project.
This will serve as a great learning experience, not only for the assembled beneficiaries of your work but also for you!
Designing Winning Science Fair Projects
You can always Google "science fair ideas," but you're already here, where you'll find all the ideas you need to get started. You don't have to have the most elegant or complex display to make a positive impact; if you know your stuff and that stuff is interesting, you'll have turned out a great science project.
General ideas to keep in mind concern how science is done by scientists. That means including the following three steps, no matter what your subject area is:
- Test an idea or hypothesis. Example: "Does the same side of the moon always face Earth?"
- Answer a question. (Take photos of the moon in its various phases over one 29-day lunar cycle.)
- Show how nature works. (Explain that the moon's period of rotation and period of revolution are the same.)
Science Fair Projects for High School
At the high-school level, good science fair projects usually involve as much hands-on learning as possible. At a minimum, you should be able to show something that changes in response to known conditions so that your audience can see your hypothesis being tested or a concept demonstrated.
For example, you could construct a working sundial to show how the ancients kept track of time at different places on Earth. Ideally, your audience members will be able to return to the exhibit throughout the day to see you deftly explain how the shadow angle relates to the time of day as long as the device is positioned properly.
Another reliable favorite, especially if you live at high latitudes and experience significant seasonal differences in daylight and overall weather, is to build a model of the Earth-sun system that demonstrates how the Earths' 23.5-degree tilt from its axis of revolution is responsible for certain astronomical phenomena.
College Science Fair Projects
At the college level, you can probably dig a little deeper into any topic and still generate a lot of attention and interest, depending on the course. The trick is to relate science to things you know others in the class are interested in, such as sports.
For example, say you are in a human physiology course and are interested in seeing how the heights and weights of medal-winning Olympic sprinters (the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters) compare to those in the 26.2 mile marathon. You can do this for intermediate events such as the mile and the 10K run and make graphs to show the relationship between athlete size and the event of focus.
Alternatively, if you were enrolled in an environmental science class, you could use information from your city's official government website to collect and analyze data about lead and other pollution levels in the area's drinking water supply over time.
Longer-Range Science Projects
Since astronomy rarely lets anyone down, you can involve other students in making observations of specific heavenly bodies over, say, a three-month period, such as Jupiter, Saturn, and the constellations within which these appear to float.
Do the positions of the constellations at the same time of night (say 9 p.m.) change over time? What about the positions of planets in relation to the background stars? Encourage others to research these topics and have an end-of-term pizza party to pool your findings but at night, of course!
About the Author
Kevin Beck holds a bachelor's degree in physics with minors in math and chemistry from the University of Vermont. Formerly with ScienceBlogs.com and the editor of "Run Strong," he has written for Runner's World, Men's Fitness, Competitor, and a variety of other publications. More about Kevin and links to his professional work can be found at www.kemibe.com.