Planning and Conducting Your Science Fair Experiment
The experiment can either make or break your science project. This is the backbone of the project, and you must put sufficient thought and preparation into it. You should plan to spend most of your time on a feasible experiment after researching. Your research should involve a practical application that includes measurements, analyses, or tests to answer a specific question. Judges look for these individual qualities and will be distracted if your project contains irrelevant facts and data.
Above all, make sure that the work you do follows the scientific method. Judges often see projects that are researched thoroughly and presented in a neat, attractive manner, only to find that they merely present a wellknown idea, model, collection, or display that the public has seen too many times. Such exhibits are not experiments but mere demonstrations that do not merit high marks as science fair projects at the state and regional level. Note however, that when working on an engineering project, you may in fact be constructing, designing, building, troubleshooting, or demonstrating a working model of a new product, a device to improve on an existing model or product, or an inventive model or device that addresses or solves an existing problem. This is the nature of an engineering project and the judges expect it. However, even at the core of an engineering project there is a question or problem that is asked and addressed by the model, design, or device built.
In general, while preparing your project, try to present a question or problem and then prepare a series of tests to solve the problem or support a proposed hypothesis. If you follow the scientific method, your project should be easier to complete and will provide more meaningful results than if you do not use this method.
Because you want your results to be absolutely accurate, you should record all your data in your journal, regardless of whether or not they support your hypothesis. Your project will not be scored low or disqualified simply because your results did not support your hypothesis. You may develop your project by interpreting your end results and explaining why they were different from what you expected.
Keep in mind that judges do not expect you to come up with a revolutionary idea. They are more interested in seeing how much ingenuity and originality you applied to an existing problem you are studying and the approach you took toward your problem. Most projects have been done before in one form or another. They usually differ to the extent that they are different approaches or applied techniques of an original idea or a confirmation of a conclusion under varying circumstances. Some contestants even submit the same project the following year at the same science fair because they have made significant progress in their topic since their first entry. Judges are mainly interested to see whether you chose the best method possible in your investigation, whether you have made the most effective use of materials, equipment, and techniques pertaining to your topic, and whether you have recorded and analyzed your data accurately and effectively.
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