Begin a science journal that includes everything you do for your research! Record dates for each entry. This will be included in your presentation of your research, so write neatly!
Read about your topic to develop some background knowledge. Write down your sources for your bibliography.
Develop a research question or engineering problem.
Think about your experimental design or engineering design process. Do NOT do or buy anything yet!!!
Be sure your project will follow all ISEF Rules!
All ISEF rules must be followed. The rules change from year to year so it is essential to review the rules carefully with your adult sponsor. Use the ISEF rules wizard carefully to be sure you read and understand all the warnings, rules, and forms that apply to your project.
Many projects recommended in books and on the web do not meet ISEF standards and will not be accepted at the NC Science and Engineering Fair.
Write a research plan.The plan should include the following:
Question or problem,
Methods or procedures,
Types of data to be collected and how it will be analyzed,
Bibliography. Students are required to have five (5) major references for the bibliography.
Fill out your entry forms. Most of these should be signed and dated BEFORE you begin experimenting. ALL students in North Carolina will be required to use the ISEF forms. Elementary Students should use the NCSEF Elementary EZ FormW instead of the ISEF Forms 1, 1A, and 1B.
Get your plan approved by your adult sponsor and your parents. Your plan must be approved and your forms signed BEFORE you begin to do actual experimentation.
Depending on the details of your project, there are several adults who can and some who must help you with your science fair project. Make sure you check the rules relevant to your project to make sure that you get the required help you need.
To make sure that projects are done well, you should start no later than the beginning of the school year. Make a planning timetable so that you will have enough time to carry out all the steps in the process. Below is a suggested timetable and plan of action.
Week 1-2 Select a problem or question and begin research. Read publications, textbooks, and reference books. Consult teachers and other scientists who might help you. 3-4 Continue research. Design science experiments and method of investigation, or brainstorm solutions to the engineering problem. Discuss with others. 4-5 Collect material needed. Set up necessary equipment Write your research plan. 5-13 Begin and complete science experiment. Create and test the engineering problem solution. Be sure to set aside time for observing and recording each day. When making observations and recording results, organize data in orderly tables and charts. 13-16 Interpret results and data, draw conclusions, consider applications. Consult with teachers or other scientists. Construct models, illustrations, and/or displays. Finish research paper. Prepare for oral presentation of the project report. Remember, some of the most useful information can come from talking to other people who are interested in your topic.
Do the Work Yourself
This is your project! One purpose of the science fair is to encourage you to do experiments. Do most of the work yourself; develop the idea on your own. Ask a question and then design an experiment to try to answer it.
You are encouraged to get advice from others, and you may need them to help with construction of an apparatus, but the project should be basically your project.
It always takes longer than you think to do a good science project. You may have delays getting materials, constructing the apparatus, writing the report or making the display. Your proposed project may not work as you feel it should, and you may wish to start another one.
Do not put it off until you have time; make time! Set aside a regular time to work even if only for a short time. Keep a written record at every stage of the project.
A report of the research should be presented on a display board. This should include
Abstract – a brief (one page or less) summary of the entire project
Results – this can include tables, graphs, images, etc.
References – use correct bibliographic form
Display are restricted to a space 122 cm wide (side to side), 76 cm deep (front to back), 198 cm in height (from tabletop), or 274 cm in height (floor to top).
Students should be at their exhibit during judging at the fair. Judges will have some questions about your project.
A. Questions commonly asked by judges
“Tell me about your project.” “What did you find out?” “Why did you do your project this way?” “What does that word mean?” “Why do you think your results turned out as they did?” “If going to study this more, what would you do next?” B. Suggestions
Be able to explain your project in 1/2 to 1 minute. Talk clearly and simply. Act interested and enthusiastic. Dress neatly and attractively. Practice your talk before others. Get others to ask you questions; learn answers to questions that you do not know.
Science Buddies https://www.sciencebuddies.org Science Buddies is a non-profit organization that provides free online resources for science education. The website helps K-12 students do better science fair projects. The Topic Selection Wizard offers a large online library of project ideas and Starter Kits. Science Buddies also offers Ask an Expert, an online forum in which students can ask questions about their projects and get answers from scientists and engineers who volunteer as e-mentors. Science Buddies also maintains a set of teacher resources for science fair planning and a science fair project help guide.
How to Do a Science Fair Project https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/how-to-do-a-science-fair-project/ The six-part video series features JPL scientist Serina Diniega, engineer Arby Argueta, and educator Ota Lutz, who team up to take viewers step by step through the project design process, from generating an idea to communicating the final results in an attractive display. Students learn about one of the hardest steps in the process – generating an idea – from the perspectives of scientific investigation and engineering design, discovering how to observe and ask questions about the world around them that can serve as starting points for their projects.
Citation Machine https://www.citationmachine.net Citation Machine automatically generates citations in MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, and Harvard. Use this tool to create the bibliography for your Research Plan.
A Time for Science https://www.atimeforscience.org/ A Time for Science is non-profit nature and science learning center dedicated to advancing science literacy and competency by encouraging and supporting student participation in science, engineering, and math competitions. Its hallmark program is one of providing a supportive environment for the conduct of student research projects through sponsorship of age related (3rd through 12th grades) science/math Clubs, A Time for Science also develops and presents other appropriate programs and activities that foster these objectives.
The Internet Public Library https://www.ipl.org/youth/projectguide/ contains the Science Fair Resource Guide that offers teachers, students and parents a complete listing of web sites dedicated to science fairs and projects. The site provides links to how to do a science fair project, samples, ideas, magazines and resources. This site is arranged from the basic to the most detailed, with special notes to teachers and parents. For more information about this resource, check out their web site.
MadSci Net https://www.madsci.org/libs/areas/sci_fair.html a component of the MAD Scientist Network. This site contains links and resources on everything you ever wanted to know about science fairs, age-specific ideas for projects, as well as how to put a science fair together. Some of the links include: School Science Fair Homepage, Science Fair Idea Exchange, The Society of Amateur Scientists, Practical Hints for Science Fair Projects and Yahoo’s listing of science fairs.
Intel International Science and Engineering Fair https://www.sciserv.org/isef/ The Olympics, the World Cup and the World Series of science competitions. Held annually in May, the Intel ISEF brings together over 1,200 students from 48 states and 40 nations to compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and the grand prize: a trip to attend the Nobel Prize Ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden. Science Service founded the ISEF in 1950 and is very proud to have Intel as the title sponsor of this prestigious, international competition.
Activities or devices that require adult supervision?
DEA Controlled Substances? (Any substance that can be diverted from its’ intended use to make illegal drugs)
Alcohol and/or Tobacco?
Firearms and/or Explosives?
Any Radiation or Lasers?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, please read the guidelines below for details about each topic, allowable projects, and any additional forms you may need to complete.
ALL projects involving hazardous chemicals, activities, and/or devices require:
Direct supervision by a designated supervisor or qualified scientist.
A Risk Assessment Form 3must be conducted in collaboration with the designated supervisor or qualified scientist.
All local, state, and federal laws must be followed if applicable.
For any chemical, activity, or device for which a local, state, or federal permit is required, the permit should be received BEFORE the start of the experiment and available for review prior to the competition.
Experiments must be designed to minimize the impact of the experiment on the environment. When using hazardous chemicals, use minimal quantities and dispose of the chemicals following good laboratory practices and/or in accordance with the directions of use on the chemical or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
If it involves a Schedule I substance, must have the research plan approved by the DEA prior to research beginning. Schedule 2, 3, and 4 substances do not require approval by the DEA.
Prescription Drugs are any substance available only through a pharmacy and in accordance with the North Carolina Scientific Review Committee, the research plan will have to clearly describe how the prescription drugs were obtained.
Students are prohibited from administering prescription drugs to any human subjects (see Human Participate rule section for more information).
Administering prescription drugs to vertebrate animals must be done under all the vertebrate animal rules and requires a veterinarian (see Vertebrate animals rule section for more information).
Alcohol and Tobacco have age restrictions for purchase and as such a designated supervisor is responsible for the purchase, use and proper disposal and in accordance with the North Carolina Scientific Review Committee, the research plan will have to clearly describe how the prescription drugs were obtained.
Production of beer or wine is allowed in the home under the supervision of a parent but such production must meet US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) rules https://www.ttb.gov or https://www.atf.gov .
Fermentation studies in which minute quantities of ethyl alcohol are produced are permitted.
Experiments in which the distillation of alcohol is used to make fuels or other non-consumable products must be done at school and a TTB permit is required.
Firearms and Explosives are regulated by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and are defined as any small arms weapon in which a projectile is fired by gunpowder and any chemical, mixture or device, the primary purpose of which is to function by explosion.
Purchase or use of firearms requires proper state certification.
Projects using firearms or explosives are allowed under the direct supervision of a designated supervisor an in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws.
Any fully assembled rocket motor; reload kit, or propellant modules containing more than 62.5 grams of propellant are subject to additional ATF rules.
Radiation and Lasers are defined as either non-ionizing or ionizing.
Non-ionizing radiation includes ultraviolet (UV), visible light, infrared (IR), microwave, radiofrequency (RF), and extremely low frequency (ELF). Lasers usually emit visible, UV or IR radiation and are classified into four classes:
Class I Lasers are commonly found in CD players and laser printers. There are no known risks associated with using Class I lasers. Use of a class I laser does not require Form 3 unless the overall experiment requires one.
Class II lasers are commonly found in larger laser printers and aiming and range finding equipment (i.e. laser pointers). Class II lasers pose a risk if the beam is directly viewed over a long period.
Class III lasers are found in higher powered laser pointers, printers, and spectrometers. They are considered hazardous devices that can cause eye damage if viewed even for a short period of time.
Class IV lasers are high powered lasers used in surgery, research, and industrial settings. They are extremely hazardous and use requires a Qualified Scientist Form 2 and the laser should be used in its intended location.