What are Some Science Fair Project Ideas?

Margo Upson

Participating in the annual science fair is a rite of passage for many. Typically, students will initially show their projects at the school district level, but can be moved on to compete at the regional, state, and national levels. They can compete from elementary school through high school.

Having access to a lab can strengthen a science fair project.
Having access to a lab can strengthen a science fair project.

There are almost endless possibilities for science fair project ideas. Most ideas can be used at any grade level. Just adjust the complexity of the project to match the student's level of ability.

A lemon battery is a classic science experiment.
A lemon battery is a classic science experiment.

Science fairs begin in elementary school. Projects at this age are usually simple to put together and explain. One of the best science fair project ideas for this level is the classic volcano recreation. Make the volcano out of paper mâché, then apply a waterproof paint. Keep a small bowl or other container inside the volcano to house the reaction between the baking soda and vinegar. Mixing red or orange food coloring into the vinegar will give the lava a more realistic hue.

Baking soda reacts with vinegar in a science fair volcano.
Baking soda reacts with vinegar in a science fair volcano.

Another great idea for the kids around seven to eleven years old is research with an ant farm. A popular idea for this is to see if ants have any preferences for particular food types, like sweet, salty, and so forth. Another science fair project with ants tests to see if ants act the same in both light and dark places.

Science fair project ideas for middle school students get a little more complex. A great idea for this age group is to test how the sun’s position affects plant growth. This experiment uses incandescent lamps set on one side of a plant as it’s grown. The plant will naturally lean towards this artificial sun in order to collect the most nutrients.

Another idea for kids aged eleven to fourteen is to determine how the mass and shape of an item impacts how quickly it sinks in water. The student can then calculate the data collected into a graph, and make an educated guess on the sinking rate of other objects.

By the time a student reaches high school, most of the regular science fair project ideas have been done — by either themselves or their classmates. A good way to really stand out is to do something that no one else is doing. One unique idea sure to catch the judge’s attention is to make a hover craft capable of carrying several adults. This project uses multiple scientific principles, and will make a great impression. It requires multiple parts, but everything needed should be pretty easy to find at hardware stores and second hand shops. Another idea is to study the effect of over the counter medicines on daphnia or other small zoo plankton found in water. Using medicines like aspirin, Benadryl, and Pseudoephedrine, watch for reactions in the heart rate of the organism being tested on. Explain how flushing medications down the toilet can affect the ecosystem from the bottom up.

Judges typically grade not only on how well an idea is carried out, but on the creativity of the idea. Science fair project ideas can be simple or as elaborate as the student wishes to make them. Regardless of the project idea, a student should be comfortable discussing all aspects of their research. The best ideas are the ones that test a hypothesis in a way that is scientifically sound, and that allow students to explore concepts that are interesting to them. There are hundreds of science fair project ideas available. Students should choose one based on their own interests. If they are enthusiastic about their project, the judges will be too.

Science fair volcanoes visually replicate the activity of an actual volcano.
Science fair volcanoes visually replicate the activity of an actual volcano.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I'm not sure it's a good idea for kids science fair project ideas to revolve around prizes. It should be a way of empowering students to feel like they are doing real science and making real progress in the world. The idea should be something that captures their imagination, rather than something they think the judges will like.


@Fa5t3r - I think it depends on the science fair and what they allow in. Usually they have a division for experiment and a division for students who are showcasing a particular aspect of science.

When I was at school we had all kinds of different sponsored prizes as well, that would go to the best project on a particular topic. If you are struggling for ideas, maybe have a look at those prizes and tailor a project to fit one of them.


Judges might grade on the creativity of the idea, but the more creative and ambitious it is, the more difficult it will be to carry out an ideal experiment.

When I was at high school, the winning project was one a girl did testing different washing machine powders against different kinds of fabric to see which ones made them fade the quickest.

That isn't what I would exactly call exciting, but it was easy to do thorough work and to come to a decisive conclusion.

Anything to do with the environment is also going to fly well right now. But try to make sure your science fair project ideas are actual experiments and not just fancy displays describing a situation.

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