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The Science Fair Project: Start to Finish Adapted from Emily V á squez Why Science Fair? Science Fair is the real application of scientific principles and techniques, not just reading about what someone else did in a book. Why do a science fair project?

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the science fair project start to finish

The Science Fair Project:Start to Finish

Adapted from Emily Vásquez

why science fair
Why Science Fair?
  • Science Fair is the real application of scientific principles and techniques, not just reading about what someone else did in a book.
why do a science fair project
Why do a science fair project?
  • Helps students compare and contrast, look for patterns, organization, gather, analyze and evaluate information, recognize cause and effect relationships, synthesize information and draw conclusions.
  • To compete in a science fair.
  • Because science is fun!
  • To learn more about a certain area in science.
science project use the scientific method
Making predictions

Designing an experiment to test those predictions

Making careful observations

Interpreting those observations

Science Project use the “scientific method”
the scientific method has four steps
The Scientific Method has four steps:
  • Observing and describing events
  • Forming a hypothesis (guess) to explain the event.
  • Using a hypothesis to predict the results of new observations.
  • Testing the hypothesis by doing an experiment
scientific skills and methods
Scientific Skills and Methods:
  • ORGANIZING your experiment
  • Creating a research QUESTION or PROBLEM
  • Constructing a HYPOTHESIS
  • Evaluating RESULTS
  • Reporting findings
  • BUILDING a display


  • PREPARING for the science fair




Project Timeline

To do a good project, allow 2 to 3 months. Use a log book to document everything you do

get organized
Get Organized…
  • 1st – 2nd week…Decide what area of science interests you the most
  • 3rd – 4th week…Write a question or problem you want to research. Make a guess on how your research question will turn out. This will be your HYPOTHESIS
5th – 7th week…
    • Write down your PROCEDURE – step by step
    • Complete needed forms and get them approved
    • CONDUCT the


    • COLLECT the data
  • 8th Week…ORGANIZE and ANALYZE the data (making tables, charts and graphs).
9th week…Write your conculsions – keep it simple and to the point!
  • 10th week…Have fun putting together your display – Be creative!
creating your research question or problem
Creating your research question or problem

What are you interested in? Pick an area of science that is of interest and research that subject.

Project Categories
  • Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Earth Science
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine and Health
  • Microbiology
  • Physics
  • Space Science
  • Zoology
where to get project ideas




TV commercials


Your backyard

Where to get project ideas?
slide17– guide and ideas (excellent)

slide18–project ideas– acid rain projects– check out both sites– movie clip complete science fair guide

slide19 project ideas and guide (very good)– projects involving the nervous system project ideas– projects in agriculture – insects project ideas

slide20 ideas ideas
coming up with a research question or problem
Coming up with a research question or problem

Think of something that you are curious about in the area of science that you picked.

  • Is it something that puzzles or interests you?
  • Or someone told you a fact and you don’t think it is true.
now you know your question or problem what do you do
Now you know your question or problem…what do you do?

When you decide what you want to investigate, ask yourself these questions…

  • Can it be done?
  • Is there enough information available?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How much help is needed?
  • Are the materials easy to get or build?
Is there enough time?
  • Do I have paperwork completed?
  • If I use animals or plants, do I know how to take care of them?
What safety precautions are needed?
  • Are there any laws concerning my project?
READ about your question…use your library, school, the internet…

Remember…Use a log book to take notes and write down where you got them!

all projects require some paperwork forms to be completed
All projects require some paperwork (forms) to be completed
  • Make sure to get science fair project forms to fill out BEFORE you start your project
  • Everyone needs to fill out three forms:
    • Checklist for Adult Sponsor (1)
    • Research Plan (1A)
    • Research Plan Attachment
    • Approval Form (1B).
Additional forms are required for projects involving:

Human subjects, vertebrate animals, potentially hazardous biological agents, controlled substances, chemicals, equipment, firearms, radioactive substances, radiation.


Go to the following web site to obtain the forms you need…Florida Foundation for Future Scientists - www.fffs.ucf.eduInternational Science and Engineering Fair -


Read the Rules for science fair projects in the following web site…

  • StateRules:
  • Rule Wizard:
  • Rule Book:
  • Be sure and read and fill in all the forms (except 1C and 7) BEFORE being approved.
  • Experimentation prior to approval can result in disqualification of a project.
Do not start an experiment until your

project and forms have been approved

by the teacher!

constructing a hypothesis
Constructing a Hypothesis
  • What is a HYPOTHESIS?

It’s an educated guess on how you think your experiment will turn out.

  • How to write a hypothesis…
    • Make sure the words “if” and “then” are included in your hypothesis
    • Needs two variables
Example:If tomato plants are grown with different amounts of fertilizer then the plants receiving the most fertilizer should grow more.

The hypothesis should force you to think about what results you should look for in your experiment.

developing a procedure
Developing a Procedure
  • Write down what experiment you plan to do (present tense).
  • Write down what materials you will need…
    • Can I buy them ($)?
    • Can I borrow them (ask)?
    • Can I make them (time and $)?
  • Decide where (home, school or other) and when you will do your experiment.
Carefully plan the set-up of your experiment. Make sure you have included:
    • An independent variable – something that can be changed or manipulated…a treatment, program or cause.



Plant height

  • A dependent variable – something that changes in response to the independent variable and that you can measure.

For example:

  • A control group – a group to which the independent variable is not applied
  • Repetitions – more than one test subject for each variable and control


Test subject

2nd treatmentless than the amount of fertilizer that is recommended

3rd treatment

more than the amount of fertilizer that is recommended

Remember: same age, same kind!

Fertilizer will be the variable in this example and you will add different amounts to your plants.

1st treatmentamount of fertilizer that is recommended

choosing your control
Choosing your control

Don’t forget to include a CONTROL group.

A control group is where you don’t use your independent variable




1st treatment


2nd treatment


3rd treatment


No fertilizer



choosing your repetitions
Choosing your repetitions

Finally, your results are more reliable if you use more than one test subject for each variable change. This is called REPETITIONS or “reps”.








1st trt






2nd trt






3rd trt













Use at least 5 test subjects for each treatment and control…

You should try to do all your “reps” at the same time or under the same conditions (same time, place, temperature, etc.)

5 decide what kind of measurements you will use to measure the change your variable will cause

Use metric measurements when you measure height, weight and size!

Don’t use just yourto measure your results! .

5.Decide what kind of measurements you will use to measure the change your variable will cause




… often

…..what time

6 plan how to record your measurements data and observation in the log book
6. Plan how to record your measurements (DATA) and observation…In the log book!

Experimental data (results) sheet

Activity sheet (journal)

7 log the steps of your procedure
7. Log the steps of your procedure
  • Have you written out your procedure (steps that you will follow) carefully? This plan should explain how you will do your experiment and what it will involve.
  • Each step should be numbered and describe only one action.
  • After you have your procedure written, show and discuss it with your adult sponsor or teacher for approval.
  • I will purchase 25 tomato plants (my test subjects) that are the same age and kind. There will be 5 plants for each treatment and control.
  • I will obtain one kind of fertilizer (my variable) and I find out how much is recommended.
  • I will place my plants in a good location outside.
  • I will measure the different amounts of fertilizer carefully.
  • I will add the amounts to my plants once a week.
  • I will measure the height (data) of my plants every two daysfor 3 weeks.

You are now ready to conduct your experiment…

Remember…be careful and be safe!


What should you do if your experiment doesn’t go how you planned or the data doesn’t agree with the hypothesis?

Don’t worry…

You could amend the procedure or hypothesis…talk it over with your teacher or advisor.

Do not use white out – line through date and initial new procedure on forms and in log book.

evaluating your results
Evaluating your results

Organize your data…take your raw data (your experimental data sheet), combine and group it according to time, date, etc.

example look at the experimental data sheet slide
Example (look at the experimental data sheet slide)

Add all the data from test subject #1 from A rep, B rep, C rep, D rep and E rep. This will be your total from the 1st treatment.

8+6+6.5+7+5.5=33 cm

Treatment 1 (5 plants) grew a total of 33 cm

Now calculate the average amount of growth for the 1st variable:

33 cm (total growth for 5 plants = 6.6 cm

5 (number of plants used)

The average growth for a plant in Treatment 1

was 6.6 cm

you have your totals and averages now show them off
You have your totals and averages, now show them off!

Tables – This is a mathematical show of your data


Line graph

Bar graph

These graphs show visual changes in plant height over time

analyzing your data
Analyzing your data
  • You can also analyze your data where you compare your variable data with the control data.
  • You can use “statistics” to scientifically support your results.
  • Ask your math teacher to help you select the correct formulas for your data.
looking at your results
Looking at your results

You have looked at your data, now take a moment and think about your results.

  • Write down these thoughts…
    • Did your experiment give you what you expected? Why or why not?
    • Did you follow the procedure correctly?
    • Did you make any mistakes in your observations?
composing your conclusion
Composing your conclusion

Since you have written about your results, how about writing a conclusion (what happened and what did you learn)…

  • Did your conclusion agree with your hypothesis?
  • Were your results consistent?
  • If your conclusion didn’t agree with your hypothesis, can you explain why it didn’t?
  • Did you collect enough data?
what did you learn from your experiment
What did you learn from your experiment?
  • Do you know more about your area of interest now that your experiment is over?
  • If you were to continue your experiment for the next science fair, would you change the procedure or investigate further your results? Explain what you would do…
Can someone benefit from your results? If you can show that your results can apply to a “real life situation” (helping farmers grow better or less expensive tomato plants), this will definitely add strength to your project.
ABSTRACT – This is a brief (one paragraph, 200-250 words past tense) summary of your project. It should include:
    • Problem or question (what you wanted to investigate)
    • Hypothesis (your educated guess)
    • Why you chose to do this experiment?
    • Short description of your procedure (steps)
    • Briefly describe your results (measurements you took)
    • Conclusion (what you learned)

The abstract is VERY IMPORTANT. Make sure it is easy to understand. Since the judges will have many projects to evaluate, they will depend heavilyon the abstract to explain your project. You can find the form for an abstract at:

building your display

Your display is an advertisement of your hard work!

Building your display
  • The final step…your display
  • The purpose of the display is to summarize your project.
  • Usually the display is a three sectioned, free standing back-board made out of foam board, cardboard, pegboard, corkboard or plywood.
the display must include
The display must include…
  • Title (make it an attention grabber!)
  • Problem or Question
  • Abstract
  • Hypothesis
  • Procedure
  • Results
  • Conclusions

You should also show your best photographs, drawings, charts and home-built equipment but be careful not to clutter up your display (all photographs must have a credit line).

preparing for the science fair





Preparing for the Science Fair
  • Once you have your display and report finished, you should be ready for your school’s science fair.
  • What could you win at the fair?
  • Also, if selected, your project could go to the Regional Science and Engineering Fair!
the day of the regional science and engineering fair
The day of the Regional Science and Engineering Fair…
  • When you arrive at the science fair, go to the main desk to be checked for proper forms and size. They will give you a number and tell you where to take your project.
  • Middle and High School…you will have to present and explain your project to various judges.
on judging day you should
On judging day, you should:
  • Look organized and professional
  • SMILE!
  • Be ready to discuss your work
  • Make good eye contact with your judge
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before
  • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know an answer
  • Show the judges your knowledge and enthusiasm for your project

The judges may ask questions like:

  • How did you come up with the idea for this project?
  • What did you learn from your research?
  • How did you build the apparatus?
  • How much time did it take to run the experiment(s)?
  • Did you take all data under the same conditions (time of day, temperature, light…)?
  • Do you think there is an application in industry for this knowledge (technique)?
  • What is the next experiment to do in continuing this study?

Judges like to see the following:

  • Genuine scientific breakthroughs
  • Discovering knowledge not readily available to a student
  • Correctly interpreting the data
  • A clever experimental apparatus
  • Repetitions to verify experimental results
  • Predicating and/or reducing experimental results with analytical techniques
  • In engineering categories, experiments applicable to the “real world”
  • Ability to clearly portray and explain the project and its results

Judges score low on these:

  • Ignoring readily available information (not doing basic library research)
  • An apparatus not useful for experimentation and data collection
  • Improperly using jargon, not understanding terminology, and/or not knowing how equipment or instrumentation works
  • Presenting results that were not derived from experimentation

Besides 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention, private companies, research institutions and the military give out their own awards and prizes.


Middle and High School projects, if selected at the County Fair, can go on to compete at the State Science Fair…this happens at different cities in Florida each year. You will meet new people, see other projects and have a great time!



Andrew Wilcox

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School

On to State Science Fair!


Behavioral & Social Science

Molly Tuckerman

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School

American Psychological Association Award

On to State Science Fair!



Alex Beach

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School

On to State Science Fair!



Alexandra Stemm

King Middle School

U.S. Navy & Marine Corps Distinguished Achievement and

United States Air Force awards

On to State Science Fair!


Behavioral & Social Science

Anthony Kimes

Haile Middle School

National Society of Professional Engineers Award

On to State Science Fair!


This project is eligible to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Portland, Oregon, May 9-15, 2004.

Best of Show 2004


Tom hauser

Bradenton Academy

U.S. Army and Herbert Hoover presidential library association awards

On to State Science Fair!



Andrew Derry-Farrell

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School

On to State Science Fair!


Medicine & Health

Jonathan hermans

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School

On to State Science Fair!



Bradley Stemm

King Middle School

Florida Junior academy of Sciences award

On to State Science Fair!


This project is eligible to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Portland, Oregon, May 9-15, 2004.

Best of Show 2004


Kaitlyn Arnold

Palmetto high School

On to State Science Fair!



Caitlin wildes

Manatee high School

Manatee Audubon society award

On to State Science Fair!



Shannon bock

Manatee high school

On to State Science Fair!


Environmental science

Sara hillstrom

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School

U.S. Metric Association award

On to State Science Fair!


Computer science

Kristen Troxler

King Middle School

On to State Science Fair!


Team project – Junior Division

Amber Wright & Amanda Rigney

King Middle School

On to State Science Fair!


Team project – senior Division

Alexa derespino & kimberly wolfe

Lakewood ranch high School

On to State Science Fair!


Medicine & health

Anthony gruppo, jr.

Bradenton academy

U.S. Metric Association and Florida junior academy of sciences awards

On to State Science Fair!



Jamie schindewolf.

Bradenton academy

Eastman Kodak company photographic award

On to State Science Fair!



Patrick mingledorff.

St. Stephen's Episcopal school

Nace international and Florida junior academy of sciences awards

On to State Science Fair!


Earth and space science

Logan zoller.

St. Joseph catholic school

On to State Science Fair!


Environmental science

Drew chesanek.

Bradenton academy

On to State Science Fair!