Science fair ideas?


Once again, I have volunteered to mentor some high-school students with their Science Fair projects. Past experience has taught me that they probably will have no idea what to work on, so I thought I might as well stack the deck by having some interesting suggestions to make if they can’t decide on something feasible/practical. I’ll be doing some due diligence, but thought I’d throw this out there.

Any of you dopers do a science fair project that you really enjoyed? Any one ever think of something that they never got around to doing? The main considerations are the following:

-High school students should be capable of understanding and carrying it out on their own initiative.
-We have about 10 two-hour periods to do the work
-Does not pose any untoward safety risks (eg, ionizing radiation, high voltages, dangerous chemicals, virulent organism, etc)
-Should be fun

Any idea gratefully accepted. Thanks in advance.


An investigation into the best way to keep the fizz in half-full bottles of soda. This has been discussed many times, including on the SD, with various hypothesis but scant actual evidence past the anecdotal. As I see it there are two basic approaches (three if you count the control approach - do nothing):

One approach is to use some sort of gadget to pump air into the void above the soda. The idea is that the increased pressure will inhibit the CO2 from coming out of the soda. The counter argument is that it is not the absolute pressure but the partial pressure of CO2 that is important, and that because there is very little CO2 in plain air that these pumps will not affect the partial pressure significantly.

The other approach is to squeeze the bottle before replacing the cap. This reduces the volume of the void and therefore the amount of CO2 which needs to be released from the soda to reach a stable partial pressure. The counter argument is that the deformation of the bottle, and its natural tendency to resist this deformation, will somehow create a mechanical vacuum effect and will suck more CO2 from the soda.

This could be a fun and instructive project. One would need to devise some sort of fizz-o-meter (I had thought of measuring he volume of gas evolved from adding Mentos to diet cola). It would also illustrate the need for a control experiment and introduce concepts such as the solubility of gasses and partial pressure. Most of all it would Fight Ignorance :slight_smile:

Here are some great ideas!

Hydroponics can be interesting and fun. Choose a plant or plants that are quick growing and experiment with different light exposure and/or minerals in the water or other changeable growing inputs to see what happens.

This may be a bit elementary for high school kids, but I’m sure there are takes on the main idea that would be a little more sophisticated.

I don’t really recommend hydroponics. That was my elementary school project in essence (do plants grow better in soil from outdoors, store-bought soil, or soil made from compost?) and since the study took so long and required a lot of personal attention to work, I inevitably forgot to water them or put them in the sun for their allotted time and ended up with a tray full of dead green beans instead of a complete study.

My favorite from a classmate’s project was “Does the extent to which a soap foams up on use correlate to how well it cleans?”

Is just the amount of time you’ll be directly supervising the students, or the total amount of time that you expect them to be working on the project? Because 20 hours is barely enough time to even develop a plan and build apparatus, much less actually perform any kind of interesting experiment and evaluate results. I probably spent a minimum of 100 hours on science fair projects at the grade school level.

Conflicting requirements. Projects that have the most potential hazard or created the most smoke and fire were always the most fun. But practice good lab safety. That is one of the most useful thing to learn.


Are bacterial cultures within the scope of the project? For me, those projects were more of a college thing than a high school thing, but if the school can provide some equipment, it’s very easy to take cultures and swabs, and compare the contamination of different surfaces, cleaners, food preparation methods, etc. Fun may be relative, but at least everyone will immediately understand the relevance of the experiment.

Another idea: testing various designs for wifi network enhancement. Students will find Pringles-can antenna designs around on the Internet as a starting point. It would fit all the relevant science fair criteria to put those to the test and investigate some alternative methods to enhance the signal.

My two brothers are currently working on theirs. One is finding/ordering stuff for a survival kit, while the other is studying global warming mitigation technologies.