Science Fair Tips
- Start Early! Many students begin planning their research at the end of the school year so that they can conduct research during the summer and fall.
- Find a topic that interests you and research what is already known about the topic.
- Narrow the topic to a specific question that can be answered through experimentation. (Use the Scientific Method to help plan your experiment).
- Discuss the project with your parents and teacher and review with them the ISEF Rules and Regulations, noting the specific rules that might apply to your type of research (i.e. are you working with human subjects or animals or working with hazardous substances?).
- Develop a hypothesis and outline a procedure.
- (High school) Write a detailed research plan about how you will conduct the research and complete the required Intel ISEF forms and any additional local science fair forms required. You then must obtain the appropriate approvals as needed before the start of experimentation. This may involve being reviewed by your local Institutional Review Board (IRB) or Scientific Review Committee (SRC).
- Once your approvals and forms are in order, begin your experimentation following your research plan and any revisions that those supervising or approving your research have recommended.
- Interpret the data and observations.
- Draw conclusions.
- Write the abstract and upload all forms to the SEFI website
- Create the project exhibit board following the Display and Safety Regulations.
- Practice your presentation and prepare to answer judges' questions.
- Present the project at your school Science Fair with the chance to advance to Regionals, State and/or Internation Fair.
ADVICE FROM ALUMNI
Don't participate in science fairs for the awards. Don't do science for the recognition. Don't compare yourself to anyone else and don't force yourself to do it. Do it because you love it!
Don't be afraid to try something even though it might not work. Things rarely work the first time. Learn from your mistakes, discover as you try different things, and never give up because you can make a difference. Help your community and contribute to society. Learn through your experiences and discover the world around you. Such is the true reward of science.
Remember that science fair is supposed to be fun and don't let it stress you out too much and good luck to everyone!
Pick Your Topic
Find a topic that interests you. We encourage you to visit the INTEL Science Resources page for science fair and research ideas.
Explore the areas of your interest. Look for questions within that area that might be worth exploring.
Along with interest, you should also choose a topic that can benefit your community or society in general. Look around your community and try to find something that you can discover, study, design, create or improve that will solve a troublesome problem. Why not choose a topic that will allow you to contribute to society and to make a difference?
Try to avoid topics that primarily test consumer products (which battery last the longest, which papertowels absorb most, etc).
Don't be afraid to try something even though it might not work. Let your imagination run wild and be creative. Sometimes the simplest solutions and the smallest contributions are the most important.
Read science magazines like Science News and research on the Internet to see what is currently being done in science. Always choose a topic that interests you and make sure whatever you choose is possible to do in time and with the equipment available.
Read. Talk to people. You'll find out there's a lot of stuff out there you don't know that you would like to know by doing these things. Once you have an idea, research what is already known about the topic. Narrow the idea to a specific scientific question.
Develop an experiment to solve the specific scientific problem you've chosen. Use the Scientific Method to help plan your experiment. Complete all required paperwork.
Consult Your Adult Sponsor
Discuss the project with a parent or teacher. Review with them the International Rules as well as the specific rules that might apply to your type of research. For example, if you are working with human subjects or animals or hazardous substances, specific rules apply.
ADVICE FROM ALUMNI
You should try to find someone to act as your mentor for support and suggestions. Nevertheless, it is not always required to work in a large institution with a specialist in your area of interest. I spent my time working at home in my father's workshop, using parts I found around the house to build my inventions and to solve a few problems. I also spent time working at school in the workshops and labs or out on the lake. A mentor is a guide, not a solution.
Don't be afraid to seek help from several sources and to use the resources that are at your disposal.Ask your science teacher for help. Don't be shy--email professors at local universities.
Write a Research Plan
- Write a detailed research plan describing how you plan to conduct your research:
- Develop a hypothesis using the Scientific Method.
- Develop a procedure.
- Obtain the appropriate approvals before starting your research.
- Complete the required forms for SEFI
Begin your experimentation following your research plan and any revisions recommended by the people supervising or approving your research.
Investigate to test the hypothesis and answer your question.
Make observations and collect all data in a project journal (a project journal is required). Interpret the data and observations.
Finalize your project for presentation. Write the abstract (required by Intel ISEF) and upload to the SEFI website.
Create the project exhibit board, being sure to follow the display and safety rules. Note that there are a variety of items not allowed in the display. If you arrive at NIRSEF with prohibited items, you will have to remove them from your display before judging begins.
ADVICE FROM ALUMNI
Your presentation board should be appealing to the eye and should explain both what you did and what you found. Pictures are very helpful and often say more than words.Make sure your posters clearly outline what your project is about. You should be able to get what the project is, how it works, and how it was created from the posters.
Diagrams are also very useful as they allow the public to follow your train of thought easily and without confusion. Try explaining your project visually with graphs, diagrams, pictures and subtitles. Use color to separate ideas and arrows to direct your audience.
Avoid buying expensive presentation tools. Your artistic touch is much more appreciated and shows your involvement in the project.
ADVICE FROM ALUMNI
I've learned through experience and friends that the more enthusiastic you are about your project, the more excited the judges will be about it. Also, make your project appear wonderful, because in a lot of ways it probably is, but also remember the limitations of your project. Recognizing the limitations of data is a key to almost any scientific pursuit.
Relax. The judges are usually are friendly, and they aren't out to make mincemeat of your project. Just tell them what it's about naturally, and answer their questions.
Practice in front of a mirror and try to eliminate "ummm" from your speech. Don't spend too much time explaining your project so that the judge will have plenty of time to ask questions. Be confident in yourself. Look professional, smile, and relax.
Do not memorize your presentation. I repeat, do not memorize your presentation.
The oral presentation is also very important. Make sure you speak clearly and that you take the time to ask your audience if they have any questions. It is important to cover everything briefly, even your failed attempts, and to do so in a logical pattern. Don't spend too much time on one thing. If you are working with a partner, take your turn explaining the project and switch every five minutes or so. This way, it allows your audience to differentiate between sections and will add energy to your presentation. Teamwork is essential. Work together and help each other out.