Keys to Winning Science Fair
No can predict who science fair judges will choose to win, and you have to realize that no one can guarantee that if you do all of the following that you will win. However, most winning projects have each of the following and the Brimley judging sheets and the regional judging sheets focus on scientific method, correct experimental design, and student understanding.
1. Follow the steps of the scientific method in order.
2. Do complete background research. If the judges ask you something about real world applications of your project or anything else you should have learned in background research, you can answer correctly.
3. The only variable that changes is the one being tested. For example, if your project tested laundry soap, the only thing that was different for the tests was the type of soap. The water temperature, washing time, stains, washing cycle, washing machine, amount of soap, etc. were all the same for every test. Making the variables constant in this way makes for a fair test.
4. You have the proper controls. For example in the laundry test, the control is washing one set of tests without laundry soap. If the washing process alone gets the stain out, then you can't show the value of one laundry soap over another.
5. Replicate with at least 3 trials for each experiment and average the results. If you are testing people or animals you should test 10 to 15 different people or animals. I realize that few people have 10 dogs or 10 cats, but winning students take the extra step of testing their neighbor's, friend's, and grandparent's dogs. In order to make a strong conclusion, you have to base your conclusion on evidence from more than two people or two dogs. The more subjects you test, the stronger your conclusion. Think of it this way, if one person called you a liar and ten people said your were honest which would most people believe?
6. Display your results in a neatly done graph that obviously shows your conclusion.
7. Verify - this often is the step that decides the top places.
8. Give a great interview with the judges. It's okay to be nervous, but be sure to speak up so the judges can hear you, smile and show that you enjoyed your project, and answer their questions completely. Sometimes students do fabulous projects and awful interviews. Judges overlook nervousness, but they don't overlook inaccurate information or incomplete answers. Anything that the student says or does that shows lack of understanding of their own project can make the interview bad and result in not being considered a top project.