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Secrets of a Science Fair

Apr 8, 2008
Let's suppose you have finished polishing a satisfying piece of scientific work. Or it might be more realistic to suppose that you have reached a natural stopping point where it becomes evident that new thinking, planning and equipment may be necessary before you can go any further.

You may have carried out this project to pin down an answer that eluded you. If you had fun looking for that answer, or if you actually produced what scientists and mathematics call an "elegant proof," you will be wondering now how you can share it and check its validity against other work in your field.

One of the most rewarding ways to do this is by entering your project in one of the local or national competitions for young student-scientist, such as a science fair.

What Is a Science Fair?

A science fair is a collection of exhibits, each of which is designed to show a biological, chemical, physical or technical principle, a laboratory or other procedure, an industrial development or an orderly collection of anything which can be fitted into the broad concept of any branch of any pure or applied science.

Every year millions of people see science exhibits shown by students at science fairs leading to the National Science Fair-International.

The simplest fair is an exhibition of science projects held in the school itself, where all the experiments, collections and displays that have been worked out by students either in class or as extracurricular science club activities are shown. These fairs have become so numerous that it is difficult to keep track of them. They often are a feature of a meeting or a showing to which the public is invited.

If the scientists who judge the science fair agree that a piece of work is valid and is well presented, the exhibitor may find himself winning an award and taking his project on to a large regional fair. City-wide, area or regional science fairs may exhibit several hundred projects in a large hall and may be visited by thousands of interested people.

Exhibiting Your Science Project

Before you even begin work on a project that you plan to enter in a science fair, you will want to have some idea of how it might be exhibited effectively. More detailed ideas will occur to you as your work progresses, and you will want to jot these down for future use.

When you are ready to build the exhibit, first make a preliminary design to see what the over-all effect will be. Then make a more accurate sketch that includes all necessary details.

1. Layout. A science fair exhibit for most fairs should be forty-eight inches wide by thirty inches front to back, or less. Some things, such as telescopes, which may not fit into these dimensions, should be displayed so that their longest dimension extends vertically, to avoid crowding by neighboring exhibits.

2. Types of Exhibits. There are three basic methods of treatment, with many variations for each. The first is "breadboard" style, that is, on an open breadboard, or flat on the exhibit tables. This is suitable for the display of large mounted specimens and chemical and physical apparatus.

The second is the panel form of construction in which sides, back and base are put to use. This form is suited to the exhibition of flat specimens. Sometimes even the top and front also become parts of the exhibit area. The third method utilizes boxed units set one alongside the other, and sometimes on top of each other as well. This form is suited to radio transmitters, receivers, amplifiers, oscilloscopes, numerous valuable or fragile specimens and, of course, aquaria.

3. Lettering and Labels. Avoid huge letters poorly made, ponderous charts or diagrams, notebook records spread across the table top. Make your major legends small and neat and readable at a distance of six to eight feet. Judges and visitors who want to study the details can leaf through your notebook, which preferably should be secured to the right front edge of your exhibit space.

Seek out a science fair and gain the satisfaction of exhibiting your own project.
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