The Science Fair

Introduction to Science Fairs

Are you working on your school science fair project? Perhaps you're preparing for something a little more advanced. Whichever it is, it's important to know why science fairs exist in the first place. In the United States of America, the science fair began with the Science Clubs movement, sponsored by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company in the 1940s. The first science fairs were held in Philadelphia, and were the start of a system and institution that's proved to be instrumental in promoting creativity, and a much greater appreciation for science by the American public. Today, in America, science fairs are held at every level - ie: there are school, regional, state and national science fairs. So do remember - the purpose of a science fair, is to promote creativity and scientific discovery!

And that's exactly what will happen as you proceed with your science project. On top of what you'll learn from your own project, you'll also learn so much more about science by simply observing and speaking to other participants. If you've never done a science fair project before - or if you're not sure how to go about doing one, don't worry - it's not all that difficult, once you understand the steps and requirements on how to do, and present, a meaningful science fair project . And although winning isn't everything - don't be surprised if your project scores top marks, once you follow the proper steps and procedures.

Before proceeding, you'll need to know this - you've probably heard that science fair projects are all about the scientific method. What this means, is that many of the more advanced science fairs have rules requiring that all project entries properly demonstrate the scientific method. The scientific method helps us collect and analyze data in a manner that is well accepted by real scientists around the world.

I'll explain more about the scientific method as we go along but for now, just know that the scientific method helps bring out the "detective" or "discoverer" in you! You'll first get to choose which "mystery" to solve. Then you'll get to show just how creative you are in spotting clues that will help you solve your "mystery".

There are broadly speaking, 5 types of science fair projects that you can do:

About Science Fairs
  • They require participants to use and demonstrate the scientific method
  • Most science fairs require you to conduct investigations by experimentation
  • They encourage the development of critical thinking skills

1. The investigative project

This is a project were you are required to ask a question, construct a theory or hypothesis, draw a conclusion and then test that hypothesis by constructing an experiment. This project uses the scientific method. By far, this is the most popular type of science project. To win a prize at your science fair, you probably need to pick an investigative project.

2. The laboratory experiment

This is a project that repeats an "experiment" found in science books, textbooks, workbooks and other references. This experiment does not seek to investigate new theories, but merely validates an existing one.

3. The research project

This is a project based on extensive research done with books and other materials in order to write a report on the chosen topic. Backboards (posters) are then used to illustrate key concepts from the research paper.

4. The hobby collection

This project consists of either a collection of objects, or features interesting artifacts. It involves library research but no hypothesis is tested. An example of this type of project would be an antique coin collection. You would display your collection and perhaps explore how the coins have evolved in their shape and sizes.

5. The model construction

This is a project that involves the construction of a model that may illustrate a scientific principle. Examples of this type of project is creating a model of the solar system, a battery, or a volcano.