Choosing a Topic

Science Fairs Inside-Out

Picking a Topic

When you’re trying to pick a topic for science fair remember one rule:


Unless your teacher insists that you do a science fair project about a particular topic or subject matter, you’re going to have more fun, do a better job and get a better grade if you select a topic that interests you.

Let’s say you’re interested in the space program and the Curiosity Rover that’s on Mars. This topic can involve many subjects including Astronomy, Physics, Math, Geology and Earth Science, Engineering, Chemistry and more.

If you’re interested in the ocean, ponds or lakes you can do a project about Botany which is the study of plant life or about Marine Biology and learn about the animals and fish that live in various bodies of water. If you’re interested in hockey, you can do a Physics or Materials Science experiment about the various materials and construction of a hockey puck which might affect a player’s ability to control it.

There are three types of science projects: Demonstration, Science Fair, and Engineering.

Demonstration Project: Students in the lower elementary grades are the only ones who are usually allowed do a demonstration project.  They’re typically not allowed at middle school or high school science fairs.  While they’re fun, you don’t learn about “real science” by doing a demonstration. For instance, you can demonstrate how a volcano works, or can build your own planetarium. Or, you can explain static electricity through several activities such as making an aluminum foil ball.

Science Fair Project: This is a traditional project in which you describe a problem or come up with a question just like a real scientist, and then design research and perform an experiment using The Scientific Method to answer the question or to solve the problem in an organized way. There are endless possibilities in Biology, Chemistry, Medicine & Health, Microbiology, Bio-Chemistry and other subjects. Do you sing in a chorus? You could do a science fair project to determine if cold water or warm water has a better affect on your voice and ability to reach high notes or low notes. If your parents enjoy drinking tea, you can do an experiment to determine how the brewing time of tea affects the strength of the tea using a device that measures light absorption; is tea that’s brewed for four minutes twice as strong as tea that’s brewed for 2 minutes?

Engineering Project: The objective of an engineering project is to apply The Engineering Method with science and math to identify a need and to determine how you will solve that need by producing useful devices for people. You’re still trying to solve a problem, but you do it by building and testing prototypes and by working on various design processes. For instance, if you’re in a band, you could do an engineering project on the effects of dry wall thickness or various sound-absorption materials on sound transmission in your basement or garage so your neighbors won’t complain about the noise when you practice. Or, if you run track, you can build a working model of a body temperature monitor to see how much your temperature increases after running for 20, 30 or 40 minutes, or at various speeds.

So, what’s your topic going to be? One way to figure it out is to make a list of ten activities or topics that most interest you. Then, write up a question about each of these that you’ve always wondered about, and narrow the list down to the top two or three that seem the most interesting. Then you might want to talk the list over with your parents or a teacher to have them help you make your final choice based on material needs and costs, and the length of time it might take you to complete your project.