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If you are an athlete, you might like to believe that “talent” always beats “equipment”, but the more you participate in a given sport, the more you realize that good equipment helps with success rates. For science fair projects, the backboard is the “equipment” used to communicate what was done in the project. The most competitive projects have backboards that are both informative and attractive.
The backboard needs to be autonomous – meaning that a person, otherwise not familiar with the project, should be able to understand what was done in the project without the student present to explain it. This is critical because most science fairs include a component for the judges to evaluate projects prior to speaking with students.
Although the backboard is the final product, the planning for its design should start immediately. So take photos throughout the project because pictures are a great way to tell your story.
Backboard Guidelines: All projects should have the basic components including the title, abstract/summary, question/problem, hypothesis, variables, materials, procedure, results/data, and conclusion. Keep in mind that judges are looking at many projects. They expect some of these features to be in specific places and if those features are not in the expected location, the student runs the risk of a judge concluding the student is missing that component. These components (i.e., Title, Problem/Introduction/Abstract, Hypothesis, Conclusion) need to be very close to the designated location, but the specific location and amount of space used for the other components (i.e., materials, variables, procedure, data, results, and photographs) should go where they fit best and where the student can use them to tell their story. It is important to make all features easy to find and spotlight the data collected on the center panel.
Here are general guidelines for making your own backboard:
And here are some more examples of award winning backboards: