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How to design a science fair project from scratch: day 1

Posted by on October 25, 2013

Here is some insight into life with a scientist: My daughter tried some freshly sprouted mung beans from a friend at school –> She looked up mung beans and discovered they are very healthy and wanted to start eating them more regularly –> I went to the store to buy mung beans and discovered you have to sprout them yourself –> My daughter’s friend’s mom teaches me how to sprout mung beans –> After two days, beans sprouts…. and I (insert light bulb here) immediately realized mung beans would be a great tool to conduct science fair projects with!! Mung beans are cheap, easy to sprout, and the results are quick. So here I will design a science fair project – from scratch – so you can see how I work my way through the process.

The key is that the mung beans need to sit in clean water for 6 to 8 hours; clean water leads to most beans sprouting in 2-5 days. MY OBSERVATION: What happens if the water is not clean? So –> CHANGE THE WATER… MEASURE THE NUMBER OF BEANS THAT SPROUT.

This is a model system – the mung beans represent living organisms. With this model system I can ask many questions that have real world applications. For example:

What if the water has a low pH? = Ocean acidification and/or Acid Rain

What if the water is salty? = Salt water intrusion and/or Rising Sea Levels

What if the water is polluted? = Non-point Source Pollution and Runoff

What if the water has growth additives? = Use of Fertilizers or Effects of Vitamins

What if the water has tannins? = Chemical Ecology

What if the water has sediment? = Erosion and/or Sediment pollution

What if the water has an anti-biotic in it? = Effects of Anti-biotics

I haven’t decided which one I will tackle here – but the point is, with this system you could test the effect of WHATEVER YOU ARE INTERESTED IN as long as you can add it to the water.

My first task: Figure out what I need for materials….

I know I need a CONTROL set and an experimental set and I know I need REPLICATION; so that means I will need 6 jars/bags/sprouters for a basic experiment and 9 to 12 for a more advanced design… Here I am thinking:

BASIC
3 jars for control (clean water)
3 jars for a “test” condition

ADVANCED
3 jars for a control (clean water)
3 jars for a “low” condition
3 jars for a “medium” condition
3 jars for a “high” condition

Each jar needs a square of cheese cloth and an elastic and I need enough mung beans for each. My initial thought: count out 100 beans for each… (I was a pharmacy technician so I can quickly count by 5s) but that might get tedious so I could use a standard measure like a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup. We’ll have to see how many fit in the jar leaving space to expand.

I am also envisioning what the eventual data will look like (most likely a bar graph with condition on the x-axis and % of beans that sprouted on the y-axis) and thinking about making a data sheet to keep track of the washing schedule and observations regarding the beans….

For now I need to go search my house for jars … or maybe red Solo cups… and go to the store to buy beans and cheese cloth … more later

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