Jump to content


Talk to me about Science Fair

Recommended Posts

We have never done a science fair but now two of my kids want to enter in the fall. They've been on sciencebuddies.com and gotten some interesting ideas.


1. Any tips on the presentation board? Use small words and don't be afraid to give me ridiculously simple and obvious tips. :) My boys (and I) are not that good with this sort of thing. Posters they've done for other projects have been mediocre for the most part.


2. One kids wants to do a project that is way too big to bring to a fair. His plan is to take pictures of different stages and aspects. How on earth does he present all that? Anyone else done this and have some btdt words of wisdom?


3. They are all about the science and the process. Other than that, what sorts of questions should they be prepared to answer for judges?


4. What extras, go the extra mile type things did your kids do? I want my kids to get all they can out of this experience from an educational standpoint. My boys, however, want to win. There are small scholarship prizes (less than $100) for many of the awards and they think it would be cool to win one. What can they do to make themselves standout? (Dh and I are not pushing them to win, especially since we will probably end up spending more on the projects than the awards would be. Our focus is for them to learn more science and get experience presenting info.)


5. Tips on scheduling? Currently, their plan is to do the projects this summer, take pictures, etc. and write up a basic report on observations, results, etc. Then they plan to do the boards in the fall closer to fair after they know more specifics about judging criteria. However, being a realist, I can def. foresee that they change their mind and want to do a diff. project, realize they didnt get a critical picture and need to do the project over, etc. How did you schedule doing a project during the school year?


6. I'm too ignorant to even know what else I should ask. What else do I need to know?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you! I searched science fair but didn't see these. Lesson learned - don't search before coffee. :)


The search function is not all that user-friendly - I knew what I was looking for and the author.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've judged a few fairs.

See if the fair organization will give you the scoring rubric. Then make sure you can get the maximum number of points in each category.

As an example, if they want you to use SI units instead of English ones, then either use them (best) or explain in your write-up why you didn't and be ready to address it with the judges (second-best).

Spell and grammar check everything.

There is usually a poster, a "report", and a log. The report is done at the end, the log is done as you go along. Do the report before the poster. You can then use sections of the report for the poster.

Keep a very detailed log about the project as you go along. It can be somewhat messy, in the sense that it's a working log, not a formal paper. Thoughts, ideas, results, contact information, draft write-ups, diagrams, print-outs from web sites, etc. etc. Tape stuff in if that's helpful. I've even seen poems! Every time you work on the project, make notes about what you did/planned/learned in the log. It needs to be dated.

Encourage your kid to choose a project that interests them and is within their grasp scientifically.

Give your kids as much help as they need in terms of process, scheduling, etc., but be sure they "own" the project. They need to be able to discuss it and the judges can spot a parent-done project a mile away.

It's all about the process. I've seen a project about knitting/yarn win over projects about much more "sciencey" topics (extracting DNA or whatever), because the child understood the science, owned the project, had excellent scientific process, and hit all the points in the rubric.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Encourage your kids to think of their first science fair as a "pancake" year -- the first pancake you make is always a little overcooked or raw, but you adjust and do better next time. When you go to the fair, ask successful students and teachers for advice on how to improve. If your fair has teacher support, go to the teacher training or request copies of the written materials.


2. Find out when your specific fair is, and read the rules very carefully. Every year at the homeschool science fair there are kids who cannot go on to state because they did not follow rules or procedures. This is most likely to trip you up if you use vertebrate animals (including seemingly benign things like surveying humans) or anything that the science fair safety committee considers "hazardous." You can do projects with humans or animals or with hazardous materials, but the humane review or safety review must be completed BEFORE any experimentation starts. You cannot do these forms and reviews later. When you go to do the display board, read the rules again and be very clear about what is and is not allowed. A very common error is images without credits.


3. Make the judges' jobs easy. If you clearly label each section: Hypothesis, Procedure, etc. they won't have to hunt. Use big fonts on your board. Don't write too many words. They can only skim for a few minutes and then they start asking questions. Don't make them decide which sections are worth reading, cut down the number of words until every single bit of it is relevant and important. A picture is worth a thousand words. A graph is worth a thousand tables of random numbers.


4. At the end of the fair, judge yourself. What is the main strength or weakness of your project and where should you improve next time? For example, previous goals for DD have been: Improve my public speaking by finishing early so I have more time to practice. Better board organization. Better background research, etc. After your second year, be sure to give yourself credit for meeting your goals for improvement, even if you do not win a prize.


5. The judges are not there to judge how hard you worked or how much you learned. They are there to judge how your project stacks up against the rules and against the competition. You have some control over how hard you work, how much you learn, and how well you follow the rules, but you don't have any control over what else shows up as far as competition goes. Judges are also human, and they like or dislike certain types of projects. Kids who have magnetic personalities have an advantage in the judging as well. Win or lose, you need to thank the judges for their hard work, and respect their decisions. They are human and they are doing the best they can.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We do science fair project every year and I am writing about one now as pp stated. I think that in the end, you need to focus on the science first and the winning second. At the beginning, the most important thing is to have an original topic and to plan the project well. Then and only then should you think about *how* to present it.


Here are the criteria for our fair:


Criteria for Judging


Scientific Thought & Understanding (30 Points)

The exhibit demonstrates clear scientific thought, the application of appropriate scientific methods, an appreciation of the need for accuracy in observation, measurement, data collection and reporting; and an understanding of the underlying or related scientific principles embraced within the project.


Technical & Graphic Skill (15 Points)

The project has been assembled with skill and dexterity, equipment, models and the frame of the project have been well constructed; graphic materials have been carefully prepared and presented, living plants and animals have been well cared for, working parts are reliable; and the whole is well planned and neatly finished.


Originality (25 Points)

In the selection of a topic or statement of the problem, uniqueness of approach, resourcefulness in obtaining and interpreting data, ingenious use of illustrative objects, inventive apparatus, insight conclusions, or inspired applications of the principles, process or product.


Thoroughness and Effort (15 Points)

The work which has gone into a Science Fair project is reflected in the scope of the topic, the scale of the investigation, the detail obtained, the extent of the results, the repetition of the experiments, the construction of the project and its illustrative items, written material and other displays.


Presentation (15 Points)

The exhibit is well designed and developed to be attractive, visually interesting, informative on all aspects of the investigation, well illus­trated with photographs, models, specimens or samples; and with wide public appeal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

WE have done science fair projects several times over the years and my dh has judged many, many times as he is a physicist. One thing that really bugs him is non experimental projects in fairs that are supposed to be only science fairs (there are fairs that have engineering portions where projects would be suitable but in science, an experiment should be conducted). The number one thing it should teach your children is the scientific process. That includes the idea that there project won't be the end all, be all of any discovery. So for one thing, they should be able to answer what future experiments should be done based on their experiment. Use words like suggest instead of words liked proved.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In contrast to TransientChris's experience, our fair is a science and technology fair. So clearly you need to check your own fair's rules. My ds is entering in Mathematics and will be using theoretical investigation (bolded below). Here are our rules:



May be in any area of science: Biological sciences, including Botany, Zoology, Ecology, Agriculture, horticulture‚ anything concerning living organisms; Physics, Electronics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Meteorology, Geology, Geography, Geophysics, Computing or Mathematics.


Should contain an element of original research. This means that projects should seek to obtain new information on a subject, or test a new idea or hypothesis, through experimental investigation, or develop a new technological idea or device. Experimentation can involve mathematical and/or theoretical investigation or computer modelling or simulation, rather than the more usual physical experimentation.


Should be documented in a log book. All work: from the initial formulation of the project, through ideas for investigation, experimentation, collation and analysis of results, to final conclusions and completion should be described in a log book. This could be a school exercise book, or a scrap book; it does not need to be super-tidy, but must be logically ordered and contain a complete record of the project. Log books must be submitted with presentations for judging.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...