Science Fair Tips (for your project, your board, and your presentation) from a Science Fair Sweepstakes Winner (Farnoosh Nik-Ahd)
Tips for Your Project:
Ø Most importantly: participate in the science fair because you want to. Don’t do it for your parents or for the credit. It is very apparent who really wants to be there and who is forced to be there. When you want to be there, the passion you feel towards your research is very visible, and this makes the experience much more worthwhile for both you and the judges.
Ø Pick something that interests you, but don’t limit yourself to things you know about. My project last year was on a topic I knew nothing about, yet by the end of it, I had learned all about it and was ready to share my new knowledge with the judges. Unique topics are especially good, as long as they interest you.
Ø If at all possible, try to do your project at a lab. The quality of the project is the most important thing—projects with advanced science really stand out. For my project, I worked at Stanford University. However, I had to really work hard to be able to do so. I sent over 300 emails to researchers at Stanford, and of those 300, 3 of them responded with a “yes.” DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK!!! The most important part of science is that you ask questions and challenge yourself, so challenge yourself to broaden your horizons and work with real scientists. You have to be persistent about this—be prepared to be rejected, but if you try hard enough, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.
Ø When you work at a lab, your project will most likely be of a higher quality (since you will be working with professionals), and it is always good to be able to throw an impressive name in there. However, if this doesn’t work out, don’t worry. Ask your teacher/mentor if they know of an alternative, or try to think of an advanced project yourself.
Ø How do you find a lab? If you don’t have connections through your parents or a friend (as most people don’t), go online!!! Select a university or lab, and send emails to researchers. Tell them about yourself, your interests, and qualifications, and show how eager and dedicated you are about working with them. People love to see high school students getting involved, and if they can, they will probably try to help you out or guide you. I ended up at the lab I worked at last year because one of the researchers I emailed couldn’t have me at his lab, but he forwarded that email to one of his friends. His friend then offered me the internship.
Tips for Creating Your Board:
Ø Use attractive colors to guide your viewers and make your board stand out (you can use colors in your headings, charts, etc.). Make sure your colors are not distracting though.
Ø Don’t fill your board with useless pictures for the sake of “filling up” your board. Make sure everything that is on your display is relevant to your project and bears some significance to your presentation. A good use of pictures is to show an example, make things easier to understand, etc.
Ø Your board doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to win. The Grand Prize winner at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair last year had a hand-made board. This shows that winners are selected based on quality of science, and NOT on aesthetics. However, make sure your display is pleasing and complements your project.
Ø Keep the overall display clean, colorful, and attractive. If your board is boring, your viewers will automatically be bored. Yet using color, pictures, charts, and a lively presentation will attract an audience and add to the quality of your project.
Tips for your presentation:
Ø PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!! You don’t necessarily need a memorized speech, but make sure you know what you want to say. Judging is on a times schedule, so prepare a presentation for your judge that guides them through the project.
Ø Make sure you DEMONSTRATE, rather than just explain. In other words, don’t keep lecturing to your judge—SHOW them your data, charts, etc.
Ø Stand up straight, look professional, and be proud of your work. Your judge doesn’t know you, so they will judge you based on your appearance. Make sure you look enthusiastic about your project (and hopefully you are) and eager to share your knowledge with them. Also, good posture and a positive attitude will keep you confidant throughout the judging period.
Ø Look at the judge, NOT at your board.
Ø Don’t read off of your board. Again, PRACTICE!!!!
Ø Anticipate the questions your judges may ask you. Ask your teacher, mentor, or someone familiar and unfamiliar with your project to listen to your presentation and ask you questions. Different people perceive things differently, so make sure you take the time to hear their suggestions in order to make your presentation is as thorough as possible.