a Science Fair Project
to go to Science Fair Project Ideas.
What picture comes to your mind
when you think of agriculture? Do you see some guy in overalls plowing
the dirt with an old tractor, or women picking corn in a field? Maybe
what you should picture is a scientist using a satellite-linked computer
program to examine global climate changes, or a researcher developing
a new product that can absorb 1,600 times its own weight in water.
Agriculture today is high-tech. It has to be
because keeping U.S. agriculture productive requires research that is
every bit as complex as the space program. As a matter of fact, many
agricultural research scientists work with NASA on a regular basis.
They use satellites to examine fields for crop damage, to map soil conditions,
and to look for changes in the environment that could affect or be caused
While agriculture itself isn't one of the official
science fair project categories, keeping agriculture working so we always
have food to eat and renewable resources for everything from clothing
to biofuel requires knowledge and research that fits into all of the
So don't let an old picture of agriculture like
overalls and dirt make you think that agriculture isn't a science.
When your teacher asks you to come up with a
science project for class or as part of a science fair, think agriculture!
is a Science
The idea behind a science project
is to see what happens if . . . What happens
to one thing if you change something else while you keep all of the
other conditions the same?
the heart of all research, and a science project is just another name
The idea behind a science project
is to learn something new—through an experiment. You might guess
the result beforehand, but you won't know for sure what will happen
until you try out the experiment.
While your science project may
be simpler than a scientist's, it should still follow the same basic
steps that make up the scientific process.
Exactly what do you hope to figure
out? What is the "what if " question? You should be able
to write the research question in a simple sentence.
In fact, keep the whole project
simple. This is important to the scientific process: the simpler the
experiment, the easier it is to keep "all other conditions"
the same and change only one thing.
That's how you can be sure that
the thing you are changing is actually causing any difference you
"Hypothesis" means "what
do you expect to happen in your experiment?" Suppose your research
question is, "what happens to seeds if I change the temperatures
at which they are kept before they are planted?" The hypothesis
might be "the higher the temperature at which seeds are kept,
the quicker I expect them to sprout."
It's important to phrase your
hypothesis correctly. For example, don't say "higher temperatures
are better for seeds." "Better" cannot be measured.
Decide on a hypothesis that can be proved in a measurable way. For
example, "higher temperatures will make the seeds sprout faster."
It is perfectly fine for your
experiment to disprove your hypothesis. If something unexpected happens
during your experiment, the project doesn't need to be trashed. You
just discovered something new and showed that what we expect is not
always what we get.
some studying before you decide on your hypothesis. Sources of information
include school and public libraries and the Internet. Also, once you
have some background, you might consider writing, or e-mailing
a scientist who works in the field you've
chosen for your project.
The procedure is how you plan to do
things: how you are going to conduct your experiment.
An experiment can only have one variable.
That means you can only change one condition in each experiment.
For example, with the seed-sprouting
experiment, if you vary the temperature at which the seeds are stored
before you plant them, keep each group of seeds at that temperature
for the same amount of time. And make sure all of the seeds get the
same amount of light and water after you plant them.
If there's more than one variable,
the experiment becomes flawed. It can be hard to figure out what other
conditions must stay the same. But it may help to think it through
before you start your experiment.
Also think about how long your experiment
will take before you decide on your procedure. If you only have a
few weeks to do your experiment, don't decide on a procedure that
will take months to carry out.
Think about your "sample size."
How many seeds will you test at each temperature? Allow a big enough
sample so you can have a few duds in each group.
Once you decide on a procedure,
write it down step by step. That way, you can prove what you did and
can follow the same procedure if
you need to repeat the experiment.
This is where you collect the
information or data. Your data should be in numbers, not just what
you see. For example, say that some of your plants grew 1 centimeter
the third day. Don't say that the plants "look bigger today than
they did yesterday." Words like "bigger" mean different
things to different people, so reporting your results using only words
can lead to confusion. You want to tell people exactly how much your
Keep all your results in one notebook.
It can be hard to understand the difference
between results and conclusion, but the two are very different.
Results are the specific data collected
during the experiment. The conclusion is what you learned from doing
the experiment, and what the results mean. You might also think of
the conclusion as a summary. In just a few sentences, you need to
explain what happened in your experiment and whether it agreed with
Did your data (the measurements you
took) support your hypothesis? If not, that's a result, too. It doesn't
mean that the experiment didn't work. Also, consider other possible
explanations for your results. Did your treatment kill your plants
or was it that you left them outside and some insects ate some of
the leaves? You're not out to "prove" your hypothesis but
to test it. Think more along the lines of "here's what I thought
was going to happen and here's what actually happened." Then
go on to explain why you think things happened the way they did.