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Technology can improve science fair ideas, displays
Anyone living with students knows the challenge of creating a science fair project. For those of us who procrastinate, the challenge is even bigger.
When I was growing up, students had to do a science project every year starting in first grade. By the time I got to high school, I was a pro. I knew what I was going to do my project on; I would even do the project weeks ahead of time.
Unfortunately, I liked to wait until around midnight the day before the science fair to put the background board together. Fresh is always best. This would inevitably lead to my father sticking his head in my door and saying, “Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance.” The 6P rule is one to live by, but hearing it in the middle of the night while your fingers are glued together is just plain annoying.
When doing a science fair project, there are several things young scientists should keep in mind. First, originality is best. It is better to do something you are passionate about with great gusto than to do a boring “been there, done that” experiment. Making a volcano explode with baking soda and vinegar is passé, and to be perfectly blunt, I am not taking advice on which toothpaste whitens better from a third grader.
Science fair judges are looking for three things: Did the child do the experiment? Did he or she use the scientific method to conduct it? Is the student excited about the project? Students who are excited about their projects have much better chances of winning. It is far better to do a science fair project to determine which superhero could scale the world’s tallest building the quickest than to tell a science fair judge that plants grow better with soft drinks. Science fair judges are looking for something they haven’t seen before – something unique.
With that being said, let’s look for a few places you can find science fair project ideas. Your local 4-H office is always a good place to start. They have lots of books with hands-on projects, everything from creating an electrical circuit to hatching eggs. You could probably even talk your 4-H agent into letting you do the Eco-Bot Challenge for your science fair project.
Young scientists can turn to perennial powerhouses like Steve Spangler, Science Bob and PBS Zoom. While some people really want to know why hand sanitizer takes marker drawings off the wall or why helium balloons may become a thing of the past, there are also plenty of other ideas. To find more experiment suggestions, try Exploratorium for some fun sports science, Science Buddy or books like Exploring Physics with Toys.
Once you have decided on your experiment and conducted all of your research, you are ready to put it on those lovely display boards. A key thing to remember is that judges are older, and young students’ handwriting is usually not legible. To top it all off, by the time the judges are looking at the 17th project, they all pretty much look the same. A nice display stands out in the judges’ minds.
If you are going to create your text for the display board on the computer, make sure you choose a sans serif font. Sans serif is a fancy term for fonts without wings on the end. Examples of sans serif fonts include Arial, Tahoma and Verdana font styles. Examples of serif (with wings) fonts are Times New Roman, Rockwell or Curlz MT.
The title of your project should be at least 3 to 4 inches tall, which corresponds to a font size of 300 to 400 points or 100 per inch. Subheadings should be around 2 to 3 inches tall (smaller than your title). Be sure that the rest of your text is at least a 28-point font so the judges can read it from 3 feet away. Whenever possible, include photos of yourself doing the work on your display board as well.
This science fair season, be sure you are properly prepared for your best performance.