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Advice for students

There’s no crying in Baseball … or in the Science Fair

Science fairs should be educational, exciting, and tons of fun, but — more often than not — they result in heartache and, if you have competitive kids like mine, in tears. Generally only 1 to 3 kids will place and the rest will go home having no idea why they weren’t selected as one of … Continue reading »

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How to prepare a final report for your science fair project

Generally a teacher would give guidelines as to what is expected in the final report, but if none come home with the project directions, then I recommend including the following sections (similar to a scientific paper) in this order: • Title, author, date • Abstract: 1 paragraph summary of entire project • Introduction: Background information … Continue reading »

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Creative Ideas for NEXT YEAR’s Science Fair Project

If you are working on this year’s project, and you have less than a week to get it done…. Check out my suggestions in posts for “popcorn projects” or “bubblegum projects” or even “paper airplanes” — They can all be done in a weekend (or even a day if you are really stuck). But if … Continue reading »

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Score: Kid 1, Parent 0 — Encouraging your child to pick their own science fair project topic

Finally! Yesterday, my daughter came home from school with the much anticipated science fair project guidelines. Her school didn’t coordinate the event in time for higher level science fair competitions, so these projects would be for just for a school demonstration. “What are we doing this year?” I exclaimed with the enthusiasm of an over-involved, … Continue reading »

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What do scientists do?

Hold your horses! Cool your jets! Take it down a notch! Take a chill pill! The English language is wonderfully redundant — there are many ways to say the same thing. It turns out that a bacterial community is also redundant too. In my “day job” I do full time research on aquatic bacteria. Background … Continue reading »

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Hedge Betting

Nobody likes to be wrong! –And one of the hardest parts of a science fair project for many kids is to accept is that the data from their experiment might lead them to conclude their hypothesis was “rejected” or “unsupported” (NOTE: we never say a hypothesis was “wrong”). Last Friday I stumbled upon this creative … Continue reading »

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Why microbiology experiments are hard to do for science fairs

Since I am a microbiologist, I frequently get asked to design microbiology experiments for science fair projects. I have stopped doing it because of rule changes for most science fairs. ISEF now prohibits growing bacteria or mold in the home environment. I recently looked into the rules for the Google Science Fair – here is … Continue reading »

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Scientific American Guest Blogs

Periodically, I post blogs on the Scientific American Guest Blog. http://www.scientificamerican.com/ Here are examples: 3 Strategies for an Original Science Fair project idea: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/11/21/3-strategies-for-an-original-science-fair-project/ How to answer the 5 most common questions from a science fair judge: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/12/16/how-to-answer-the-5-most-common-questions-from-a-science-fair-judge/ Anatomy of a science fair project: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/01/12/anatomy-of-a-science-fair-project/

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Scientist’s don’t like the word “prove”

I often meet students that tell me that they “proved” that this parachute was the best, or they “proved” that this ball bounced higher, or they “proved” that bleach kills plants. As soon as I hear the word, I shudder, because scientists, in general, don’t like the word prove. The whole concept of “proving” anything … Continue reading »

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Replicate! Replicate! Replicate!

The single biggest mistake in all the science fair projects I evaluated yesterday was no replication or incorrect replication, so today’s post is geared toward covering this specific topic. All science experiments MUST be replicated. That means you have to repeat everything you did, exactly the same way (to the best of your ability), a … Continue reading »

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