Science Fair Ideas For Everyone

Scientists try to understand our natural world by observing it. They gather physical evidence and research, forming questions and attempting to answer those questions by experimenting in a systematic way. By building upon our knowledge regarding the world around us, we help people find ways to help themselves. Science moves society forward. What would the world be like if the wheel hadn’t been invented or if Galileo hadn’t discovered the laws of motion?

Learning about science begins when you begin to question the world around you. Did you know that playing in the dirt and wondering where earthworms and beetles go was one of your first scientific explorations? Science starts before you ever set foot in your classrooms. Science fairs are a great way to discover the actual process of science—the scientific method. When you participate in a science fair, you get to create a hypothesis, experiment and form theories about your project. It’s fun, you get to be creative and maybe win a prize.

Here’s some basic science experiments and projects for you to try. Be creative. Add to the projects and experiments as questions come up. Have fun and learn while doing it.

RAINBOW IN A GLASS

Did you know that rainbows form in the sky when sunlight strikes rain droplets in the air? Part of that sunlight reflects off the raindrop. The rest of the light is refracted, meaning it slows down and bends toward the normal path of light. This is when the white sunlight splits or disperses into the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Once the light hits the back of raindrops at a certain angle, a rainbow is born. How vivid it is depends on other refraction and dispersion as the light leaves the raindrops. This is how you see the colorful layers and how the layers become vivid or blended.

For a rainbow in a glass, you don’t need such a miracle of nature. All you need are the a few colors of a rainbow. You will need food coloring, sugar, water, glasses and a tablespoon. Sugar creates density. Density is what creates the layers of the rainbow. How does a rainbow in a glass differ from rainbows formed in the air? How are they the same? For something simpler, just fill a glass with water and hold it in front of a sunny window. Turn it around; angle it certain ways. See a rainbow on the wall or in the glass?

How Rainbows Form

"Make a Rainbow" with Light

KITCHEN-GROWN AVOCADO TREE

If you’ve got a minimum of three to six weeks before your science experiment is due, you can start your own avocado tree right in your kitchen. Avocados provide fiber, B-vitamins, no cholesterol and provide the good type of soluble fats for your body to work well. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat fruit such as avocados to remain heart-healthy. Starting your own avocado tree is a great way to keep a healthy food choice near your table at all times. All you need to do is remove the pit from the center of an avocado, wash and towel it dry. You will need a glass of water and some toothpicks to suspend the avocado half in the water, half out. A little bright sunlight on the windowsill and soon you will have your avocado tree started. A couple of weeks after that when the roots grow a bit more; you can plant your tree.

Sprouting an Avocado Tree

Avocado Nutrition

POTATO CLOCK

Learn about electricity and batteries by making your own potato clock. Just grab a nice baking potato, but in a pinch any eyeless spud will do. You will need a few inches of copper wire with its insulation removed, or a copper penny, a steel nail, a zinc-plated nail, some sandpaper, pliers and a voltmeter that reads tenths of a volt. You will stick the nails into the potato, far enough away from each other that voltage can register. You can also stick the copper wire and a nail into the potato. The two metals inserted into the potato must be dissimilar for the experiment to work. You will touch the voltmeter to the metals. Make sure that it is set to DC. You will see small amounts of electrical activity with each touch—not enough to light a flashlight, but enough to get the gist of how a battery works. Next, take the battery out of a battery-run clock. Use the potato battery to make the clock run on potato time.

Potato Battery Project

How To Choose Science Projects (includes Potato Clock)

HOMEMADE PLASTIC

Plastics are polymers, yet polymer isn’t necessarily a plastic. Polymer means “many similar units bonded together” to form something. An example of a polymer that is not a plastic is DNA. Plastic is made up of synthetic or man-made polymers, called resin. You can make plastic yourself at home in your kitchen. The simplest experiment involves whole milk, vinegar, an eyedropper and a spoon. By squirting vinegar over hot milk and stirring it you separate casein, a polymer, from the rest of the milk. Casein is a type of plastic! If you pour the vinegar and hot milk (careful, don’t burn yourself!) over the palm of your hand and roll it around, you can see and feel the casein—if you can catch it!

Milky Plastic

Making Gluep

SODA & MENTOS GEYSER

Carbon dioxide gives soda its “fizz.” Carbon dioxide is made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. It is a gas that is colorless and odorless. When slightly shaken soda is mixed with Mentos mint candies, it creates a geyser in just a few seconds. This very simple, messy experiment is best demonstrated outdoors. Here’s a question for you to think about: why does diet soda make a higher eruption than regular soda?

Mentos and Soda Geyser

Mentos and Diet Soda

HOMEMADE ELECTROMAGNET

The difference between an electromagnet and a regular magnet is that an electromagnet can be turned off and on. Electromagnets run on electricity. If the electric is flowing, then it is on. If the electric is off, then the magnet is off. To make your own electromagnet, find a large iron nail, thin-coated copper wire, a new size D battery and some paper clips. You attach the wire to both ends of both the nail and the battery. The battery charge runs through the wire to the nail. Now try to pick up the paper clips with the nail. Keep away from household outlets, as it could be dangerous for you to get the wires close to one. Did you notice if the size of the nail or wire made any difference in the electromagnet’s power?

Make an Electromagnet

Electromagnets are Attractive!

HOMEMADE SILVER POLISH

Tarnish is that dark, sometimes streaky appearance on silver or silver-plated dishes and other objects that you might find around the house. Chemically, it’s called sulfur sulfide, the chemical reaction that occurs when silver mixes with sulfur in the air. This science experiment uses aluminum foil, hot water and baking soda to make a homemade silver polish that will reverse the tarnish and restore silver to its shiny appearance. Never polish any silver without asking your parents first. Certain silver pieces are very old and have a tarnished looking appearance. This isn’t tarnish, but a different chemical process called oxidation that creates a richer, warmer appearance called patina. Removing or damaging patina lessens the worth of silver. One way to tell the difference is that hand polishing with a non-abrasive tarnish remover removes tarnish, but it just makes patina shinier. Still, there may be some damage, so ask your parents before trying this experiment.

Removing Tarnish From Silver

Other Silver Polish Recipes

MINIATURE HOVERCRAFT

Hovercrafts glide on cushions of air over land or water. Low-pressure air vents, covered by a “skirt” or “curtain,” reduce friction over surfaces allowing the hovercraft to “hover” or glide over the surface with ease. You will need an old CD, a recycled bottle and varying sizes of balloons for this project. By gluing the pop-top cap off the bottle to the CD, you create the base for the hovercraft. Then you simply blow up the balloon, attach it to the cap by stretching the balloon neck over it. Have your timer ready when you pop the cap and push the hovercraft. Try it with different sizes of balloons. Is there a difference in speed?

Mini-hovercraft Project

How Does a Hovercraft Work?

ROCK CANDY

Get an adult to assist you in making rock candy because it gets very hot. Rock candy is one of the world’s oldest and purest forms of candy because it uses only sugar and water to create it. When you make rock candy, you learn about how crystals grow. It takes about seven days for crystallization to complete. After you boil the sugar and water, the water must evaporate. You will use a string with a weight attached to it to dip it into the sugar solution. After soaking and drying the string, you suspend it in the sugar solution for about a week. Each day you will be able to see crystals form. But don’t be tempted to eat your candy before the experiment is over so you can measure the crystals each day.

Rock Candy Recipe

Rock Candy with Photos

THE HOMEMADE VOLCANO

A staple of science fairs is the homemade volcano. It takes just a small drink bottle, some water, baking soda, vinegar, detergent, food coloring and tissue to create. Since detergent can be dangerous, only do this experiment with an adult. You put the water, detergent, vinegar and food coloring in the drink bottle. After taking some tissue and wrapping the baking soda, drop it in to see your volcano explode. Make it more realistic by wrapping play-doh around the bottle to create a mountain. Don’t forget to add channels and grooves to the volcano so that the “lava” can run through them just like it would in nature.

The Volcano Model

How Volcanoes Work