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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato
Cset

Middle School and High School Division

Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/sciencefair/middle-high-division/project.html

Project Competition

Through a science fair project you can learn what it is like to think like a scientist, to investigate and experiment in an area of your interest, and to share your results. A science fair project must use the scientific method and not be just a demonstration or comparison.

Executing a First Class Project

A first class science fair project has four major features:

  • It contains an original, high quality experiment.
  • The results of your experiment are clearly and neatly displayed.
  • The display grabs the attention of the judges
  • The project includes a scientific paper that tells you everything about your project.

All of these features are equally important. Here are some ideas on how you can make sure you have a first class project.

Make a Time Table

Get out or make a calendar you can mark important information on. Mark the dates of your school's science fair and those of the regional fair. Cross off days planned for family, club activities and trips. Got your topic picked yet? Now work backwards from the day your project is due. Leave at least two weeks to write the final draft of your paper and to put together your display. Mark off a week for your first draft and a few days for your teacher to review it. Now you need a large block of time to collect your data. Plants and seeds need weeks to sprout and to grow. Are you planning to chart some kind of activity for a month or more? Then you will know when you need to start your experiment.

Presenting your Project

All of your hard work and your well done experiment will not be noticed if your project does not grab the attention of the judges and the public. Your project will be examined; your efforts appreciated and may be rewarded if your project is

  • Organized - Arrange the presentation of your project so that the judges can easily examine and understand your experiment and your results. With one quick glance, a viewer should be able to easily find the four necessary parts of your display: the title, how you did your experiment, your data, and your conclusions. Remember, even though you are familiar with your topic and your work, when the judges see it, they will have no idea what your project is about.
  • The Title is the Beginning - Your title is what the judges might see first. But it should be so much more than just a beginning. A good title grabs the attention of the casual observer. It is short, yet it correctly and completely describes your entire project. A good title begs the people looking at your project to dig deeper. Do not disappoint them. Make sure that your title tells us what your project is about.
  • Eye Catching and Attention Holding - Home built equipment, neat and colorful headings, graphs and tables all draw attention to your project. The careful use of contrasting colors will help. For filling in charts and bar graphs, construction paper cut-outs look much better than coloring white paper. For line graphs, use different colored marker pens instead of pencils or if using electronic files, utilize color to enhance charts, graphs, etc. One area often needing extra attention is the labeling of graphs, charts, diagrams and tables. Each item must have its own very descriptive title. All columns, axes and data must be clearly labeled and identified. A person should be able to understand each graph without having to read your paper. Also, bar graphs, line graphs and pie charts all have different purposes. Check with your math teacher to make sure you have the right graph to display your type of data.
  • Correctly Presented and Well Constructed - When your display is constructed, observe the size limitations (36" wide for Elementary School Division and 48" wide for the Middle School/Senior High School Division), safety considerations and other rules for presentation of your project. See the rules and regulations as listed in the Rules and Regulations link. Be sure to fill out the certification forms if you are experimenting with vertebrate animals, humans, recombinant DNA, tissue research and/or pathogenic agents or controlled substances, prior to the onset of experimentation. Build a sturdy display that will not fall apart before you even have it placed up. You will not want to construct your display using only poster board and tape. It will not stand up straight more than a few hours. It is okay for adults to help you construct your display. There are also display boards that can be purchased at a reasonable cost.