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Ideas, ideas, ideas

Hello again!
Sorry for the long silence, I’ve been busy the past few weeks experimenting with sun burns and jet lag.

Today I’m going to run through some example science fair projects. You’re not going to want to do these exact projects, but you can get a feel for the sort of projects that work for a science fair. Maybe they’ll convince you an idea you have isn’t so crazy or they might cause you to have some new ideas of your own. Lets get to it!

Transferring pollen using a mechanical bee

This project states: “The purpose of my project was to perform pollination without bees.(Link)

Tackling a current real-world problem, this person identified one potential solution – forget the bees, lets pollinate plants ourselves! I imagine their next thought was: Is it possible?

👉💥💫Science fair!💫💥👈

Balloon-powered car challenge

This describes the potential project of powering a small car using a balloon. (Link)

My first thought is “but what question are they trying to answer?” But, as I argue in a previous blog post – if you consider the scientific process as being a repeating series of “Question, Investigate, Result, Repeat” – lets just pretend “Build a balloon-powered car” was the “Investigate” step and make up some questions we might have that this step could answer. For example:

❓ What factors affect the distance or speed that a balloon-powered car can travel?
❓ What wheel size allows a balloon-powered car to travel the furthest? How does this vary depending on how smooth the ground is?
❓ Does the top-speed of a balloon-powered car predict distance traveled?
❓ Can a nozzle be designed for the air exiting the balloon so that we increase the car’s distance?

I don’t know about you, but I find these questions pretty interesting to think about. For instance, designing a nozzle for a balloon-powered car might actually have a lot in common with the nozzles on rockets!

How can bacteria break down oil?

This science fair project researched a “sustainable, effective, low-cost, easily accessible way to clean up oil spills via bacteria.(Link)

What I’d like to point out here is how an idea can be changed from “Easy” to “Hard mode”. This example has graphs, manipulated and responding variables are identified, and possible sources of error are discussed. However, this same idea – how bacteria can breakdown oil – can also be investigated in simpler ways. You could have 5 jars with the same amount of water and oil in them, then pick different possible oil-absorbing material to put in each jar. Shake, wait, measure the layer of oil and suggest that the material that resulted in the smallest oil layer may be best at absorbing oil. Done!

So, don’t throw out a topic that sounds too complicated. Instead, think about simpler questions to ask and/or simpler ways to investigate.

... and more!

The end

There you have it – a speed run through some example science fair projects. To find more science fair project examples check out these links:

  1. Project ideas I came up with way back when I was a young science fair amateur (a couple months ago):
    1. Grades 4-6
    2. Grades 7-12
  2. Spark: Your STEM project idea generator
  3. mySTEMspace: Challenges and Topics
  4. Science Buddies: Topic selection wizard

As always, if you haven’t already sign up for the science fair! by filling in the Expression of interest form.

Comments or questions? Leave a comment, send an email, or sign up to speak with a mentor.

Talk soon!
Chris