Three Reasons to do a Science Fair Project
Science fair projects often has real life applications. Science Fair teaches you to think “outside of the box” and engage in creative problem-solving. You may find answers that adult scientists have sought for years. A high school student discovered a new and more precise way to examine the DNA of prostatic cancer. Her work may influence identification and treatment of several other types of cancer in the future. Another student spent several years investigating bacterial levels in the water of hundreds of backyard wells. Because of her maps coordinated with satellite weather data, city planners and water management consultants could monitor neighborhood wells. The project of a group of students in 1957 led one of them to write a book titled Rocket Boys, which was made into the movie October Sky.
Science research offers opportunities beyond local contests. While students benefit from the process of research and presentation at a school, county-wide or district science fair, there are greater opportunities available to students. Student-researchers often work with established scientists and educators. Science fair participants are judged by local as well as world-renowned scientists, and the contact with these experts often begins long before the competition day.
Students correspond with and work with scientists throughout their research and experimentation. One student approached an expert in the field of biodegradation and he invited her to visit his company. His lecture about the effect of quaternary ammonium compounds on carbon prompted her to ask questions and develop a project studying the bactericidal effects of quaternary ammonium salts. He continued to advise her throughout her work.
Imagine the Olympics, World Series and Super Bowl all rolled into one tremendous competition. That’s the International Science and Engineering Fair. In 1950, Science Service, a nonprofit organization, began sponsoring scholastic competitions known as the International Science and Engineering Fair. Their vision and commitment to science research and education, bring millions of dollars in scholarships, grants, and awards to students every year. Three to five million students participate at local fairs and over 100,000 projects from every state and 40 other countries participate in the International Fair. 1200 scientists, engineers and professionals from every type of industry, all of whom must have a Ph.D and at least eight years of experience serve as volunteer judges. In addition to scholarships, grants, trips and awards, the top two students are travel to the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden.
Science Service and the Intel Corporation also sponsor the annual Intel Science Talent Search (formerly known as Westinghouse Talent Search), the oldest and most prestigious science contest. Beginning in 1942, this competition continues to offer millions of dollars in scholarships and awards. In the first 59 years of the competition, 2245 students have received more than $3.8 million in college scholarships. Every student who participates in the Science Talent Search wins some amount of money as a reward.
Recently, another science competition has been developed for students in grades five through eight. The Discovery Young Scientist Challenge is open by invitation. Judges at your ISEF-affiliated fair select the nominees for the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge.
Scholarships, Awards and Prizes. Students often receive scholarships and prizes because of their research projects. An invitation to work with a hospital pathologist enabled two high school juniors to develop a team project that took first place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. One of their awards involved a trip to Greece to present their paper at an international science symposium. Another student toured Europe for ten days, all expenses paid, because of her work on a science fair project.
Participating in a science fair competition can influence the direction your life takes. The Intel Science Talent Search reports that 95% of former finalists have pursued a career in science. More than half of them became research scientists or professors at universities. Former participants in science fairs have won five Nobel Prize winners, two Fields Medal awards (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in math), and three National Medal of Science. They have also won awards from the MacArthur Foundation, Sloan Research Fellows, the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering.
Science research competition is frequently the ticket to success early in life. Colleges face the dilemma of evaluating thousands of applications of intelligent, highly-motivated students, and often look for those who participated in science fairs. They expect these students to be more motivated, self-confident and able to solve problems, traits that predict success in college.
When you are looking for an activity in high school that prepares you for college and your entire life, consider science research and science fair competition for its real-life applications, opportunities and prizes.