Hoping to enter a science fair for kids but not sure where to begin? The purpose of science fair projects are about more than simply coming up with a cool idea and sharing it with others.
Aside from the competitive glory of competing (and maybe winning) at a science fair, kids gain experience working with the scientific method: asking questions, forming hypotheses, testing, collecting data, and sharing results with others. Aside from these fundamental STEM skills, kids also gain valuable experience in collaboration, organizational skills, problem solving, communication, and creativity, turning that cool science fair project into a stepping stone on the path towards a career in science.
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Discover cool science fair projects
In this list, we will share some awesome ideas for students and educators to get inspired and to make a project that will leave a lasting impression. Of course, there’s a huge gap between a beginner’s project and that of a competitive high schooler, but we have arranged it so you can easily find something for young explorers of all ages.
Explore the best science fair projects for elementary kids
While classic projects like making a cyclone in a bottle or stacking liquids to teach density can make a lasting impact on kids, these projects offer some unique ways of getting elementary schoolers to engage with science.
1. LEGO Zipline
Kids love LEGO and this project only requires a few blocks and some lengths of string. Projects can teach kids about Physics concepts like gravity, tension, friction, as well as Math ideas like slope, angle, and weight. Set a large slope to make the zip line fast, and add slack to the line to slow it down. You could even arrange this project as a race.
Another race idea involves building a tower of ramps to allow a ball to roll down. To give your students a unique challenge, instead of making the ball rush to the bottom, you can have them compete to see who makes the ball reach the bottom slowest. All you need are some building materials (paper, cardboard, or plastic) and a ball, ideally something small and smooth like a ping pong ball.
For this project, students will only need some clear containers of the same size, hot and cold water and food coloring. Students will study the characteristics of water and how its density changes based on temperature. By adding one color to the cold and another to the hot, students then will stack the openings on top of each other, and if done correctly, the different temperature liquids will remain separate. Pretty cool.
This simple project requires garden soil, some plants with roots in the soil, and three clear soda bottles. After cutting out the side of each bottle, they will then be filled with different materials. In one bottle there will be simple soil, in another the soil could be mixed with rocks, branches, and other large chunks. In the final bottle, students will plant some flowers, whose roots will prevent the soil from eroding. As water is poured through the others, students will witness how plants help preserve and retain our most precious resource: the Earth.
In another climate science project, students will use a variety of materials to experiment with water filtration. By pouring dirty water through a mix of sand, charcoal, rocks, and debris, students can collect the filtered water and demonstrate how clean it is by passing through the filter. This could be a supplement to conversations about the water cycle.
See the best science fair project ideas for middle school kids
Middle schoolers will be able to do more independent projects, and they should have a higher bar for formulating a hypothesis and repeatedly testing it. By analyzing the data in a group, students can improve their verbal reasoning skills in a team.
With some seeds and some containers filled with various growing media (sand, soil, mulch, compost, etc.), students can test which material is ideal for sprouting seeds. Students can also study ideas of sustainability, food security, and climate change/soil erosion as part of their project.
“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” is one of the most famous quotes in science and engineering, and one of Sir Isaac Newton’s most famous Laws of the physical world. Middle school students can experience this law first hand by building a toy car that propels itself with the expelled air of an inflated balloon. Kids love this experiment because it can be presented as a race.
The geodesic dome joins the arch as one of the strongest physical structures in architecture and engineering. Students can test different materials and design strategies to build a dome that supports as much load as possible. Maybe teams can try to build a structure that carries the load of a human being!
All students need for this experiment are a jar, some cellophane wrap, a thermometer, and a sunny window. If you want, students can opt for a heat lamp as well. By covering one jar and leaving one uncovered, this experiment can demonstrate in miniature how the atmosphere captures heat and warms the planet. This of course is a perfect experiment to introduce younger kids about the fundamentals of weather and climate science.
10. Coding in LEGO
As Computer Science plays a huge role in shaping the technologies kids love (Did someone say ‘video games’?), no age is too young to learn about coding and computer science concepts like algorithms, loops, functions, and Binary. In these exciting games, students combine their LEGO creation skills to build an algorithm that can be played like a game, using binary to help a LEGO figurine move through a LEGO environment. LEGO was one of our favorite toys as a kid, and this would be an amazing chance to get kids excited about coding early.
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Check out the best science fair projects for high school students
High school science fair projects should be sophisticated and nuanced in their design, analysis, and reporting. Since science fairs can be an important part of getting scholarships and advanced academic placements, high schoolers should be challenged to do college level work in their projects, and hopefully these ideas will help them find something.
Say Cheese! No, seriously, who doesn’t love cheese? Well, actually the science says that most people are at least a little bit lactose intolerant, but that shouldn’t stop aspiring chefs and chemists from trying out this cool project where students try to use cheesemaking kits to test the chemistry behind this delicious cheese. Kits like the one below are available online and contain not only the materials to make cheese, but also guidelines to build a proper science experiment.
There has never been a better time to become a robotics scientist. (Seriously, check out the history of robotics!) With the advent of semiconductors, advanced circuits, and tools like 3-D printers and tiny Raspberry Pi computers, students can build a robot from the ground up to solve everyday problems, to interact with humans or nature, to complete human tasks, or to simply tell a story. The possibilities are endless!
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13. Raspberry Pi
Did we mention Raspberry Pi? Do you want to build your own computer from the circuit board up? These cool little computers are a lot more powerful than their size makes it seem. Students can customize their circuits to build a video-streaming device, a musical instrument like a synthesizer or a drum machine, or a game. There's a bunch of models out there for different budgets or for different purposes, so students should begin with an idea or something they want to do before buying one.
In this type of experiment students can test crops for resiliency against drought, flood, or other extreme weather conditions. Students could test to see what level of salt in the soil is ideal for growing crops, and at what point does the salt become toxic? Environmental engineering is a major part in the fight against climate change, and we need scientists to propose solutions to ensure greater food security in the future.
Is it better to drink sports drinks or a glass of water after a period of exercise? Many products are sold on the promise of delivering electrolytes to help the body recover, but are sports drinks better than a simple glass of orange juice? Using an electrically charged wire, students can test the levels of electrolytes in liquids to both study chemistry and nutrition science in one project.
Bonus. Coding Projects
Now is a great time to learn how to code software. Students have a limitless supply of resources on the Internet, and learning how to do proper Internet research is a fundamental skill for academic success. Students will work in a programming environment like Scratch or Python to build a unique project such as a game to demonstrate their understanding of variables, algorithms, loops, functions, and other CS fundamentals. This project suggests building a program in Python that tests the hackability and strength of passwords.
Enjoy the best science fair project ideas
So that’s our list so far, but there’s a lot of great ideas out there for students heading to their first science fair in elementary school or competing at the national level against the best students in the country. Whether young or old, these projects can turn the key and get kids excited about learning in STEM. Whatever you choose, try to make it stand out by making it your own!
Written by Bryan Gordon, a Create & Learn instructor. After ten years of working as an English teacher, Bryan began studying Math and Computer Science over the past few years. Aside from writing and teaching, he likes cooking, gardening, playing guitar, and hanging out with his cats, Baguette and Wally.