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Designing your own project

Strategy 1. Take a project and make it your own:
For a student’s first science fair, this is a great strategy. There are many websites and science fair project books that have interesting ideas and tell them exactly what to do. Follow the directions and complete the project, but don’t stop there. Have them select ONE variable and change it to see how the change affects the results. The more often they do this, the more in-depth the project will be. It will also give them practice at conducting experiments.

Strategy 2. Starting from scratch:
To have a unique project, the student will have to design it themselves. That means they have to ask the question, write the hypothesis, and design their own experiment. Everything they find online is available to everyone, so you should expect other kids to be doing (or have already done) the same project.

To find a creative idea, have the student flip through their science book and look for interesting relationships such as:

• Crickets chirp more in warmer weather
• Hot water freezes faster than cold water
• Oysters clean water when filter-feeding
• Insects avoid plants with thorns
• Salinity increases the boiling point of water

Ask them:
Could you turn these into questions?
How about: Do crickets chirp more in higher temperatures?

Could you write a hypothesis to answer the question?
How about: As temperature increases, crickets chirp more frequently

Could you design an experiment to test the hypothesis?
How about: Changing the temperature and counting the chirps per minute

Now try the other examples. In general, “home remedies” and “old wives’ tales” make ideal observations to ask questions about. Focus on variables that are measurable!


17 Responses to Designing your own project

  1. keanah

    i think this is fun

  2. Lori

    My 5th grader wants to do a math science project. She wants to count m&m’s and Skittles then figure out the percentage, mean, median and mode. Is there anything she can do to make it her own? Thank you.

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      She could look at different size bags of each. For example do the percentages of each color stay the same whether you buy a small bag or a large bag (would be great if you can find any Halloween size bags too).

  3. crystal methvin

    how can I make a data chart for a science project on can I blow up a balloon using baking soda and vinegar?

  4. Fatima mac

    I’m doing a science fair project based on instant freezing water but I don’t no how to design it

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Step 1: Identify the question you want to answer.

      What are you interested in? What do you mean by “…based on instant freezing water…”? Think about all the different variables (components) involved… which ones do you suspect are the most important to the freezing?

  5. kimberly

    Would doing why paper airplane fly’s best and farthest need a catapult, funds r limited and is due tomo and my son waited til last minute

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Yes – pick ONE:

      One design and make each with two different size papers (full sheet, half a sheet)
      One design and make each with two different weight papers (printer paper, construction paper)
      Two designs and make each with the same size and weight paper.

      Launch each air plane with catapult at least 10 times. Record maximum distance flown.

      Make a bar graph with design on x-axis and distance on y axis

  6. kimberly

    His exact topic, which fly’s best and farthest, a long slim paper airplane or wide paper airplane?

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Yes – this is one of the options. Make it out of the same size and type of paper. To simplify: go with:

      Which flies furthest: a longer, slimmer paper airplane or a shorter, wider paper airplane?

  7. Jessica fleury

    I have a project due tomorrow for the science fair how do I make quick and easy a cheap

  8. Kemya

    I’m trying to do a softball project…any suggestions

    • Dr. Maille Lyons

      Think about all the different aspects you could target – throwing, hitting, catching etc. The hardest part will be standardizing the throw/hit/catch. Do you have access to a pitching machine? That would help. You could also evaluate different bats, different gloves, etc. If you like math, you could do a statistics type question based on published numbers for teams.

  9. Jami A.

    Hello Dr. Maille Lyons!

    Would this website be a good resource to put in my bibliography? Thanks!

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