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Science fair projects inspiration

by Eva Amsen

I got my yearly invitation to judge the city-wide science fair again. I missed out last year, and I think I’ll have to skip this year’s fair as well, but it did make me realize that there are kids out there currently hard at work on their science fair projects!

For those of you preparing science fair projects, here are two interesting links. The first one will probably demotivate you or make you green with envy, but the second one will make it all okay. I promise.

A group of high school students in Michigan is converting a regular old gasoline car into an electric car! They have spent 50 hours removing the engine, and will put in the electric motor this week. The car is expected to be finished by spring, and would be drivable, but unfortunately would need to be recharged every 70 miles. No long distance low emission road trips after graduation for these students…

If your science project doesn’t seem as likely to wow the judges as an electric car, and if it’s now one of those fancy genetic engineering projects that seems to impress the judges every year, do not despair! Your gigantic standard deviation and fluky controls are not the end of the world. Here is an article explaining how to turn your failed experiment into a winning science fair project!

Obviously, the last link is also of interest to graduate students trying to write a thesis about things that didn’t quite work. *cough*

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Eva February 12, 2008 - 2:01 PM

I actually think the car isn’t a science fair project (all the deadlines are too early for them to enter it anywhere)

The Toronto Science Fair is technically speaking (no pun intended) called “Science and Technology Fair”, and the projects are judged by different criteria. Technology projects are heavily judged on innovation and applicability. Experimental science projects are judged on hypothesis, use of controls, and all that. There is also a third category called “study”, for things that didn’t have experiments (For example, I remember judging a project on fluoride in tap water once, that consisted of a lot of literature research and made thoughtful suggestions for optimal fluoride levels in the water.)
The judging form with the separate categories is linked from here:

Larry Moran February 12, 2008 - 1:29 PM

One of the biggest problems with science fairs is that they seem to be incapable of distinguishing between science and technology/engineering.

For example, so-called :science” projects often consist of things like converting a gasoline driven automobile into one powered by electricity. This isn’t science, it’s technology. We are failing in our attempts to educate children if we award them prizes for “science” when all they’re doing is applying science.

Science is the search for knowledge about the natural world. You aren’t contributing to that search if you’re just tinkering with a car.

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