10 Fantastic
science fair projects

Oh no! The 6th-grade science fair is here. Not to worry — we've rounded up some of the best project ideas to get you started.

Science fair

1

Heated air expands

According to the scientists at ScienceFair-Projects.org, a vibrating coin can help you demonstrate that air expands when heated. Place an empty bottle in a refrigerator to cool it. Remove the cold bottle, place a coin on the opening and seal it with a few drops of water around the edge.

Hold the bottle between your hands for about 15 seconds and watch as the coin begins to vibrate. The heat from your hands warms the cold air inside the bottle, causing the air to expand around the rim of the coin.

2

Spectrum through water

Rainbows are beautiful and fascinating. Create your own spectrum with a shallow bowl of water, a mirror, a dark room and a flashlight.

Make the room dark, and shine your flashlight on the mirror at the bottom of a shallow bowl of water. The water acts as a simple prism and refracts the light at different angles. The spectrum of colors that appear on the ceiling demonstrate that white light is composed of different colors of the spectrum, each with its own wavelength.

3

Eco-friendly cleaning alternatives

Mark Horner's daughter won first place at her 6th-grade science fair by comparing three commercially available carpet cleaners to concentrated lemon juice. All four cleaning solutions were tested on ketchup, chocolate, mustard, grape juice and lipstick stains.

"The lemon juice was the only one that completely removed the stain without leaving any residue," says Mark. "The commercial products either left some sort of residue or one or more of the stains. The concentrated lemon juice was a clear-cut winner."

4

Music affects heartbeat

Is your heart rate affected by the music you hear? Yep, and it's easy to prove.

Have fellow students walk up and down a set of stairs for three minutes and record their heart rates. After an ample rest period, have them do it twice more — once to rock music and once to classical. Your results should indicate that heartbeat is affected by music. (Does it go up or down? You'll have to test it to find out!)

5

The evolution of everyday things

"In our history there have been some great and simple inventions that eventually evolved into items we take for granted," says Denny Daniel, curator of the Museum of Interesting Things, where visitors can see and touch items that shaped our history and affect our everyday life.

For a science fair, "make a calculator or music player that runs on punch cards," suggests Denny, "or a device that runs on gears like a windup automaton showing how gears in various positions move various parts."

6

The best homemade bubble solution

This experiment by Sara Agee, Ph.D., of Science Buddies tests different materials to determine why some homemade bubble solutions work better than others.

Corn syrup is pitted against glycerin to find out which, if either, improves a mixture of bubble solution. Visit ScienceBuddies.com for a complete list of instructions for this easy science fair project.

7

Dietary impact on water conservation

Jeanne Yacoubou developed an experiment that evaluates the daily water consumption of individuals with various dietary habits. Most of the water usage of an individual on a daily basis is due to food consumed, according to Jeanne. Diets high in grains, fruits and vegetables utilize less water than diets high in meat.

By keeping a daily log of water usage for approximately seven days, you can begin to identify how you can personally conserve water in daily living. Include obvious usage (toilet flushing, teeth brushing, showers) as well as not-so-obvious uses, such as water used for preparing food.

Check out The Vegetarian Resource Group to find data on the water consumption required for the manufacture and preparation of specific foods.

8

Cookie bake test

"Rarely do people link the world of cooking to chemistry and physics," says Brad Hines, who runs TeachBoys.org. A simple science fair project is to bake repeatedly while recording and explaining the differences in the end result based on the variables.

Each batch of cookies baked (Brad likes chocolate chip) presents an opportunity to explain such things as emulsion, convection and oxidation. "I think you would get bonus points for exploring the science of something so tasty."

9

Battery life

Education.com provides a myriad of free science fair project ideas for every age. The battery life experiment answers the question: Which batteries last longer: brand-name or generic, alkaline or non-alkaline?

Simply load flashlights with different battery types, label them and monitor their staying power. Record results in a notebook and present them in a colorful display chart that shows how each brand/type of battery performed.

10

Taste bud tester

Neuroscience for Kids knows that foods and kids go together, and testing taste buds incorporates edibles into a science experiment. The goal is to determine whether or not some parts of the tongue are more sensitive than others to certain flavors.

Gather saltwater (salty), onion juice (bitter), lemon juice (sour) and sugar water (sweet). Dip a toothpick into each solution and lightly touch the tongue. Repeat the tests on different areas of the tongue and record the results on a drawing of the tongue.

Presentation tips for every science fair project

Whatever experiment you choose, make sure you present in the best way possible. Jesse Schrader, a senior biology student at Longwood University in Virginia and an expert on science fairs, offers terrific advice for presenting an award-winning project:

  • Make it pretty. "Judges respond well to neat presentations," Schrader says, "so make the presentation pop." Mount a typed presentation on colored paper and include step-by-step photos or illustrations. "Remember, the more eye-catching the poster, the more likely the judges will take notice."
  • Do what you like. "Build off free-time activities to design and experiment," suggests Schrader. "If you like baseball, build a project around aluminum versus wooden bats. If you're into ballet, test which pointe shoe treatment works best on different surfaces."
  • Make it educational. "The result of your science fair project should be that, through experimentation, you learn something new," says Schrader. "Judges want to know about the process of discovery as well as the final result." Institute the scientific method by identifying and communicating independent and dependent variables, control and hypothesis.
  • Avoid volcanoes. "Beware of falling into the 'volcano trap,'" advises Schrader. "Science fair judges look for students who have done good experiments and actually learned something."
  • Have fun! "Choose a topic you will enjoy," says Schrader. "The more excited you are about the project, the better it will be."

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