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What to do for the science fair

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The right steps now mean a better science fair project later
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What to do for the science fair depends on how much preparation you can manage

Deciding what to do for the science fair starts long before your project is on display at school. The choices you make from the very start make a big difference in how your project is done, the outcomes you have, and what visitors will see on the big day.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of the choices and decisions you need to consider when it's time to start your journey to the science fair. 

1) What are the rules of your science fair? 

Before you purchase a single test tube, or even choose your topic, it's critical to know the rules of your school's fair. Some schools allow students a free hand in choosing projects, while others require certain topics. Some dictate the format and size of displays, and others limit the use of certain materials. 

Make sure you understand all of the rules that apply to your project. If you have questions, ask now. It would be terrible to do a project and have it rejected on the day of the fair!

2) What are your interests? 

One of the best ways to have a winning science fair project is to pick a subject you love, or a question you would really love to have answered. Sure, there may be flashier projects out there ... but in general, if you are deeply involved in the topic your results will be more meaningful. And that passion comes through in your presentation.

3) What are your skills? 

While a good science fair project will challenge and stretch your knowledge and skills, be sure you have the basic scientific, math and research knowledge to handle the topic. If a subject requires advanced skills you haven't yet acquired, you may end up frustrated and unable to finish. 

4) What is your budget?

Even simple science fair projects can quickly become expensive, so it's a good idea to set your budget at the start, and then price out the tools, supplies and other expenses involved. Work with your parents to gather the budget and cost information you need. 

5) Are the supplies you need available?

Before you submit your science fair topic, make sure the tools and supplies you need are available. We once spent three days calling and driving around to various scientific and school supply stores to try and find one piece needed for my daughter's project. 

Had we known how hard it was to find certain things, we could have ordered the missing pieces from an online student science store, and saved that last-minute panic. 

6) Do you have enough time to do the project well? 

Even the best topic will face serious challenges if there's not enough time to complete the steps and create a meaningful display. 

One way to test this is to add up all the active steps and intermediate time (like the time for plants or crystals to grow), add in the time to write reports and build displays, and then count backwards from the science fair date.  If there is not enough time to do it all, consider selecting a different project. 

The "What" May not be as Important as the "How"

What to do for a science project matters.  And it's easy to think that that has to mean big and flashy. 

But choosing the right topic for your interests, time, skills, budget and the fair's rules is the best way to pick a research choice that can lead you right to the blue ribbon. 

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