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How to do a science fair project without fancy equipment

Posted by on November 10, 2011

Project Idea: Make it – Use it strategy

One strategy for a unique, creative science fair project is to make a piece of equipment (Part I) and then use that equipment in an experiment or field survey (Part II).

For example, the student could make a barometer, thermometer, secchi disk, plankton net, anemometer, etc. (just google “how to make a _____” and you’ll get directions) and then use their equipment to measure how pressure (or temperature, or water clarity, or wind speed, etc) changes as a function of time (hourly, daily, weekly, etc), or space (distance from something, distance along a path, area of interest, etc).

Independent variable: time or space
Dependent variable: whatever the equipment is measuring

A similar strategy would be to build something “cool” – like a catapult or hover craft and then ask an experimental question such as “how does the length of the arm affect the distance catapulted” or “how does the shape of the deck affect the stability of the hover craft”. Even the traditional science fair volcano can be made and used in this way – as long as you are using the volcano to answer a question. For example “how does the ratio of vinegar to baking soda affect the volume of “lava” produced?” Or “how does the type of vinegar affect the time the lava lasts”?

WARNING– just making the thing (Part I) and not using it to answer a question (Part II) is a fatal flaw (see page under designing your own project) called gadgeteering. So make sure you (or your student) completes both parts.

Good Luck and Have Fun!

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