Science fair projects can be fun as well as educational if you have a strategy for selecting a science fair project topic that will capture your attention and interest. Finding the right project can be as easy as asking “Why?” Most scientific adventures begin with asking a question and wondering what the answer might be.
Tips for selecting a science fair project topic:
1. Assess your interests and talents. Ask: Is there something that you wonder about or ask a lot of questions about? Do you enjoy indoor or outdoor activities more? Do you live near a stream, pond, river or the ocean? There are many environmental projects involving the water or creatures living in water. Are you always tinkering with something, or do you have a natural aptitude for any specific activities? What resources are available in your area, such as a scientist mentor, labs, university, or research equipment?
2. Study the guidelines the teacher has sent home. There may be suggestions for projects. There will always be instructions about what the teacher expects and what is permissible. Use suggested topics as a starting point. Suggested projects can often be tweaked or refined to create a more individualized project so that you are not doing the same project as several other students.
3. Consider the amount of time you have before the science fair. You do not want to start a project requiring several months if the fair is in two weeks. Think about where you will do the project. Do you have enough space for the experiment, can you do it safely and dispose of chemicals or supplies properly?
4. Look at project ideas in books, scientific magazines, or even the local newspaper. Is there an environmental problem, or ecological challenge in your community? Talk to other people who might help you find an idea.
5. Projects can be classified as Comparison or “Cause and Effect.” A Comparison project evaluates several different things, for example, checking to see which brand of battery lasts longest in a flash light, or which detergent cleans best. A “Cause and Effect” project says, “If I do this, then that will happen.” For example, determining whether wearing a black shirt on a sunny day, is hotter than wearing a white shirt.
6. Keep the topic narrow. Many times, you will become so excited with the process of research and experimentation that you keep asking why and going in new directions or trying other experiments. Stay focused on one problem or question. Repeat the experiment several times if you want to have more data. You can always save the new questions and projects for another year.
7. Select a science fair project topic with some relevance. Ask yourself, “Who cares about your experiment?” or “Why should someone care?” Relevance is an important element to the judges.
8. Review the science fair project topic once you have selected. Be sure it is possible to do it, you have the time, space, equipment you need. Get permission from the teacher, as well as any approval forms you need for the use of chemicals, micro-organisms, animals, or equipment.
Now, it’s time to start researching your topic and developing an experiment.