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Science Fair Projects – Bubble Gum
This was my daughter’s 6th grade science fair project. She was excited because she thought she was going to get to chew a lot of bubble gum, but that was not the case. She did, however, generate data to support the idea that some kids should be allowed to chew gum while taking their tests. In turn, that data gave her an opportunity to argue with her teachers against the school’s standard “no gum chewing rule”. I saw this as an opportunity to have her argue with someone besides me.
Ultimately, the hardest part of doing any bubble gum science fair project is finding a quantitative dependent variable (see Words you need page under the Scientific Method tab for definitions).
Doomed projects typically include:
• Which gum tastes the best?
• Are more expensive gums better?
Projects like these are flawed from the onset because “taste” is not quantitative. Even projects with quantitative dependent variables, such as:
• Which gum makes the biggest bubbles?
• Which gum’s flavor lasts the longest?
Are still flawed because it is not possible to standardize part of the procedure (e.g. bubble blowing, flavor detection, etc.). See other “fatal flaws” under Designing you own project tab. My daughter’s project might also seem like it would have been riddled with these issues– but because she found creative ways around the problems she was rewarded with school, regional, and state awards.
Problem 1: “smarter” is hard to measure
Solution: She defined smarter as “higher scores on math and memory tests” which gave her a quantitative way to measure an outcome.
Problem 2: standardizing the procedure
Solution: By comparing scores while chewing gum vs. not chewing gum (her independent variable), she could evaluate the impact of chewing gum on the difference in the scores and not have to worry about the absolute numbers. For this project she had to get as many people as she could to complete the tests – which means everyone else got to chew the gum she thought she might get!
(ALSO NOTE: the project had to be, and was, approved ahead of time because of the use of human subjects – check with your school on these important rules!)
Now, try to imagine how you could do a project on: Which gum is the stickiest? Think about how you can measure the dependent variable (stickiness). HINT: How about the amount of weight it takes to remove the gum from a surface?