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.
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.
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.
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.