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What is a Science Fair?

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Sep 28, 2011

What Is a Science Fair Project?

A science fair project is different from any other type of project you work on at school. Why? Because it is an independent educational activity that encompasses a variety of skills, many of which you have to teach yourself as you go along. A science fair project gives you hands-on experience and knowledge in your own independent field of study involving science, math, or engineering. It is a challenging extracurricular assignment that allows you to use your own ideas or a topic that you develop with your science instructor to investigate a scientific problem or question that interests you. You will not only be learning about a specific field of science and perhaps acquiring a unique skill in this field, but getting to know what it would be like to work in this field as an adult.

For example, you will learn how to investigate, network, conduct interviews, follow rules and guidelines, use various tools and equipment, analyze data, draft an abstract, write a report, prepare a display, and speak in public. With work and dedication on your part, the experience you will gain and the skills you will achieve from this extraordinary activity will be well worth all the time you put into it. The reason is plain and simple: as you make progress and begin to see your project develop and come together, your self-esteem will soar, and the project that was initially such a challenge, will eventually become a grand personal achievement—unique only to you.

What Is a Science Fair?

Every spring, thousands of students in grades 5–12 prepare science fair projects for competitions held by school districts, counties, and states. These fairs are public exhibitions of the students’ projects to recognize their work and to stimulate interest in science. Professionals from the scientific community often judge the science projects. Students who participate can earn valuable experience along with educational grants, scholarships, and other prizes. Additionally, many college recruiters give science fair project participation high marks in considering an application for college admission.

When you participate in a local science fair, you have a chance to move on to a higher level of competition in a state or regional science fair. Today, most regional and state science fairs are charter affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which is considered the World Series of science fairs. (See Appendix D for a complete listing of state, regional, and foreign science fairs currently affiliated with Intel ISEF.) The grand finale of all state and regional science fairs in the United States and in several other countries is the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF). The Intel ISEF is sponsored by Intel Corporation and several other major companies and organizations and is administered by Science Service, Inc., a national, nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. In addition to the Intel ISEF, Science Service administers the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (for middle school students) and the very prestigious Intel Science Talent Search (formerly called the Westinghouse Science Talent Search) for high school students. These events are considered to be the most prestigious competitions in precollege science. (For more information about the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge or the Intel Science Talent Search and other notable science fair project competitions, see Appendix E.) Science Service also offers wonderful programs and publications, including the weekly publication Science News.

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