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What Kind of Project May I Do?

If you want to earn a 1st-3rd place ribbon, you must do an "Experiment" type project.

So what is an "Experiment" project?

  • Evidence of the scientific method is present on the display board
  • Variables are manipulated and controlled
  • Data is collected, recorded, and interpreted
  • Experiments are repeatable. Similar results are collected and patterns should emerge from a large sample size or multiple trials.

The following project types are NOT experiments and are NOT eligible for ribbon consideration:

These projects are still welcome in the fair. They will be visited by the judge and feedback will be provided. These projects will earn a participation ribbon.

  • Demonstration - showing a scientific principle in action
    • examples --> How does a magnet work? What is an electric circuit? Can air pressure crush a can?

  • Model - Making a smaller, less complicated version to show a scientific principle
    • examples --> Making a radio, computer, telescope, periscope, volcano

  • Collection - Gathering and classifying objects to show a scientific principle
    • examples --> rock collection, insect collection, leaf collection

  • Survey - Collecting and interpreting data (Surveys differ from experiments because variables are not manipulated and no scientific principle is illustrated
    • examples --> Which fast food restaurant uses the most paper? Do girls or boys have longer "pinky" fingers? Which weatherman has more accurate forecasts?

Be careful!The word "experiment" is misused in many science fair books and websites! Think of it this way. A demonstration does exactly what you expect it to do, no exploration is needed. If you build a model volcano, you expect it to erupt. If you make an electric circuit, you expect the light bulb to light up. When doing an "Experiment", you are not sure what the outcome will be until you actually do the investigation.

Hint: It is often easy to change a noneligible "Demonstration Project" into a ribbon eligible "Experiment Project". Here is an example: Let's say you want to demonstrate that beans absorb an amazing amount of water when you soak them. All you need to do is introduce a testing variable - like water temperature. You could test to see if the temperature of the water has an effect on how much water is absorbed. You might discover that beans absorb warm water better than cold water. You now have an "experiment" that the judges can fairly evaluate.