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How to Choose A Topic for A Science Fair

Nov 24, 2007
Stumped for a good idea? Interesting project possibilities can be found almost anywhere you look.

During late fall and early winter of every year, at thousands of high schools across the country, hundreds of thousands of prospective science fairers buckle down to the task of selecting a project. Finding a suitable theme or topic is the first and, without question, the most important step in planning a winning project. Every future decision about building the project, where to shop, who to speak to, and how to orient the display and presentation at the science fair hinges on the topic.

There are no set rules for choosing a topic; everyone goes about it slightly differently and in his own way. But there are pitfalls to beware of and factors to carefully consider before making a selection. Perhaps the best words of advice that can be given to anyone planning a project are to look hard and long before you leap. A hasty decision so early in the game might easily "KO" your chances of finishing in the winner's circle at the science fair if you finish at all.

Allow yourself plenty of time to consider your own interests, abilities, talents, academic level, and the advice of teachers and professional scientists you have spoken to before you make your decision.

Reading, reading and more reading! Only by gaining an extensive background can you intelligently choose a subject and execute your project. Often, the study of many related fields will be necessary.

Project ideas can also be gleaned from hobbies and school work.

An interest in amateur radio has been the inspiration behind many science fair projects in the field of electronics, an area which offers numerous possibilities to experimenters.

Ideas for a project? You are constantly being bombarded with them! Even advertisements can be stimulating.

Professional scientists, educators, and other qualified persons are often willing to help with ideas, equipment and advice. Make as many contacts as you can among the professionals in your field.

Popular magazines can help you choose a topic. Don't copy; add a new twist based on your own ideas.

Interest in rocketry has resulted in a number of projects. Your best bet here is to confine yourself to one aspect of the subject: a new fuel, design of a component, etc.

A handy rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you are judged on HOW you solved the problem. This is a mighty big "how," and covers a lot of territory. Originality is, of course, of prime importance; so is creative ability.

But also included are the approach you took, your technical skill, your adherence to scientific method, your research into the work of professionals in the field, and your method of presenting results and conclusions. The last point is very crucial as the judges will expect conclusions about each individual facet of your project and will require good reasons for everything you display at the science fair.

Your project will represent YOU at the science fair, and will take many hours of YOUR time to complete. Therefore you and you alone should choose the topic that most interests you. Ask advice from others but make the final decision all by yourself.

Getting a round peg into a square hole is easy compared to completing a project on a topic that doesn't really interest you. At the same time remember that you must demonstrate that you solved your self-chosen problem. Consider everything the solution will require and weigh this against your assets of skill, knowledge, and ability before you start.

Once you have selected your topic, you have already accomplished a lot. Now to finally bring your idea to fruition. Good luck!
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