Tips for Creating a Winning Science Fair Project

Tips for Creating a Winning Science Fair Project

Make a list of things that interest you and ask a question about one of those things. Record your ideas and actions in a science notebook. For example, Connor was really interested in amphibians that live in wetlands. He read an article about frog mutations and this got him thinking about what kinds of chemicals are harmful to wetland organisms. As a result, he wanted to explore how household chemicals affect wetland organisms. He could not experiment with frogs, so he used elodea, a wetland plant, as his test species.

Figure out the best way to answer your question. For Connor’s elodea project, he collected a number of common household cleaners from the cleaning cabinet, made solutions of each, and exposed the elodea to each one. It is really important to focus on one variable to study. So, in this study, he focused on whether or not the chemicals caused cell damage in elodea.

Use your resources. The project is yours, but everyone needs help.  Even top-notch scientists get feedback and ideas from peers and their mentors. Teachers, parents, university professors, or local experts can help provide access to valuable equipment and information. These can be a huge help; however, you have to reach out. For example, Connor borrowed a microscope from a University lab to observe the elodea plant leaves after soaking them in each solution. Without the microscope, this project would not have been possible.

Do your study over a period of time and be prepared for hard work. Good science takes time, so plan ahead and get an early start. When Connor won the State Science Fair with his study on coyote bush, the study took place over a period of four months! That’s a long time. Connor’s elodea project took about one month to complete. He needed to get the microscope, learn how to use it, collect elodea, mix different concentrations of his test solutions, soak the elodea in each solution, view each specimen under the microscope, record observations, analyze data, draw conclusions, and create his poster board. That’s a lot of work!

Conduct multiple trials. Science relies on reliable evidence, and you can only get that by conducting multiple trials to produce lots of data using the same procedure. This allows you to make much stronger claims. For Connor’s elodea study, he tested five different substances and each one of these at three different concentrations, plus a control of just water. That resulted in 16 different data points which allowed him to draw accurate conclusions about which products had harmful effects on the elodea. For the coyote bush study, he collected insects over a period two months.  He identified 72 individual specimens which allowed him to create a good model of a food web and draw multiple conclusions.

Make a quality display board. Start by making a Powerpoint early in the process. Your first slide is your title, your second slide could be your research question, and continue on by simply following the logic of your project. If you created any drawings or handwritten charts, include them as well. When you have all your slides, lay them out on your board first and in columns so that it reads from left to right. You can trim the margins of each piece of paper so that they all fit. Once it looks perfect, attach each piece using double stick tape, which works much better than glue sticks.  Now you are ready to enter your winning project!

See you at the Chico Science Fair!
This year’s theme is
“Planting the Seeds of Science.”
Participant Registration is now open.
Log on to to register.
The science fair is open to all Chico public, private, and home school students, K – 12. Ask your teacher how to enter a project. Each entrant will receive a ticket to the Gateway Science Museum.

Applications are due on-line by Monday, February 20, 2017

Open for Free Public Viewing: Wednesday, Feb. 28th & Thursday, March 1st from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (the fair is closed from 1-3pm on Weds and Thurs).
Awards Ceremony will be held
Thursday, March 1 at 6:00 PM.
The event is located at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, Commercial Building, 2357 Fair Street, Chico, CA 95928

By Al and Connor Schademan

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