200+ Science Fair Project Ideas

Here are some of the ideas my son and I ran across when researching possible topics for his science fair project.  FYI, he eventually chose: "Which food produces the most gas?" I can't imagine a topic more inclined to appeal to adolesent males - with the possible exception of any experiment involving a catapult.

    1. How is plant growth impacted by the amount of various nutrients added (or taken away)? gravity/magnets? sound/music? movement? mowing/pruning? type/quality of soil? type/quality/quantity of light? type/quality/quantity of water? pH? electrical current? cycles of rain/drought? presence of worms/biologicals? environmental factors (flood, fire, drought)?
    2. Is there a mathematical relationship between root and stem growth?
    3. Does soil composition and porosity affect root pattern & growth rate?
  2. BASIC MICROORGANISM EXPERIMENTS. How do water-borne microorganisms respond to different amounts of nutrients added to (or taken away from) soil? different temperatures? pH? 
  3. BASIC ORGANISM EXPERIMENTS (MICE, WORMS). How do organisms respond to differnet types of food (ex: energy drinks)? music? motion? the presence/absence of predators? Can they communicate, and if so, how and under what circumstances?
  4. FUN WITH ELECTROMAGNETISM. Do electromagnetic fields affect plants? microorganisms? macroorganisms?
    1. What is the effect on water quality of seasons? amount of rainfall? chemicals? runoff? excessive algae growth? growth or reduction in population of certain species (i.e., decomposers)?
    2. How can polluted water be remediated?
  6. ADAPTATION.  If you systematically eliminate a trait in a population (ex: remove the smallest fish, remove all plants with green flowers, remove all short plants, etc.), how many generations does it take for the trait to disappear from the population entirely? How does nature repopulate an area devastated by fire/flood/drought?
  7. BOOSTING YOUR ACADEMICS. Is there a relationship between academic success and eating breakfast? time spent on homework? studying method employed? time of day chosen for studying? studying with or without music/sound? caffeine?
  8. FUN WITH FUNGUS. On which foods does fungus grow best? How do fungus seeds spread in the absence of wind?
  9. EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES  How is ripening rate impacted by presence/absense of specific chemicals? light? temperatures? humidities? presence/absense of other foods?  Which fruits/veges cause the most gas?
  10. SOIL SCIENCE. What kinds of soils retain water better? promote/inhibit plant growth? promote/inhibit growth of certain plants/microorganisms/organisms? withstand compacting best?
  11. VIDEO GAME SCIENCE.  Do video games effect heart rate? blood pressure? appetite? tolerance towards violence? attention span? ability to delay gratification? reflexes?
  12. KIDS VS. ADULT. Do children have better reaction times than adults? do kids/adults have different resting pulse rates?
  13. MUSIC. Does listening to different types of music affect heart rate? blood pressure? academic performance? mood? stress?
  14. PRODUCT TESTING.  Which lotions do best job of reducing dry skin? Which suntan lotions do best job of protecting from sun? Which orange juice contains the most vitamin C? Are the calorie counts on nutritional labels accurate?
  15. SMELL.  Is everyone's sense of smell the same? Or does is vary by gender? age? culture?
  16. HAND DOMINANCE.  Doe hand dominance correlate with gender? academic ability? athletic ability? eye dominance? ear dominance? culture?
  17. SOMETHING ROTTEN THIS WAY COMES.  What factors increase/inhibit decomp rates? Just how biodegradable are "biodegradable" products?  
  18. PHYSICAL EXERCISE.  Does the type/quality/quantity of warmup activity impact athletic performance? How long do you have to exercise before you start to build endurance/stamina?
  19. GERMS. Which method best reduces spread of germs - covering mouth with hand, elbow, or handkerchief? What are "germiest" places in public?
Physical Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics)
  1. Do size, shape or mass have the greatest impact on a magnet’s strength?
  2. What evidence can we find about the rotation of the earth from star trails?
  3. Does the presence of designated hitters increase the average number of runs in baseball games?
  4. How does sunspot activity affect radio reception?
  5. How does particle size affect settling rates?
  6. How does temperature (or air pressure; or evaporation rate; or substrate; or surface area) affect crystal growth?
  7. What forces act on soap bubbles to determine their shape?
  8. What differences can be observed in the way salt & sugar crystals grow?
  9. What will happen to a rubber ball (or a ping pong ball; or a marble) exposed to dry ice? Why?
  10. Can the hydrogen and oxygen in water molecules be split?
  11. How do different thermal cups perform in keeping liquids hot for long periods of time?
  12. What do magnetic field lines look like? Why?
  13. What materials block radio raves most effectively?
  14. Does the shape and mass of an object affect its velocity when sinking through water?
  15. What is required to build the best paper airplane in the world?
  16. Do different objects accelerate at different rates?
  17. What is the most efficient angle for windmill blades?
  18. What is the relative elasticity of various types of string (i.e., twine, kite string, fishing string, sewing thread)?
  19. Which material is a better insulator – straw, sand, paper or cloth?
  20. Do different colors absorb heat differently?
  21. Do different gases expand differently when heated
  22. Are “fireproof” fabrics really fireproof (NOTE: Adult supervision required!!)
  23. Can astronomical observation & math be used to estimate the distance of the sun and the moon from earth?
  24. What makes stars appear to twinkle? Demonstrate
  25. How does the viscosity of liquids affect the shape of droplets?
  26. Can light be bent?
  27. What color can be seen most clearly through a fog?
  28. Which type of sunglasses do the best job of absorbing light & protecting the eyes?
  29. Can solar energy be used to cook food (we mean directly – not indirectly such as creating electricity to run a regular stove!)
  30. Does regular carbonated soda cause bone to decompose?
  31. Which brands of carbonated soda are the most corrosive?
  32. Does temperature change the magnetic field patterns of a standard horseshoe magnet?
  33. What is the difference between music & noise?
  34. Which fuels are most efficient in producing energy?
  35. How does gear size affect gear efficiency?
  36. Compare different metals (ex: density, buoyancy) & explain similarities/differences
  37. Compare different woods (ex: density, strength, burn rate) & explain similarities/differences
  38. What is the best method, other than heat, to melt ice?
  39. Does the viscosity of a fluid affect its boiling point?
  40. Compare and explain the resonance of different objects (ex: metals, glass). Explain.
  41. How does the shape & construction of (insert musical instrument here) affect the sound quality of the instrument?
  42. What kind of sound carries best through water? Through fog?
  43. Do metals expand at the same rate when heated?
  44. Does aluminum foil make a difference in cooking times?
  45. What is the best nose cone shape for a model rocket?
  46. What is the best wing design for an aircraft?
  47. What factors determine solubility of a substance?
  48. Does temperature affect the pH of acids or alkalines?
  49. Does the pH level of fruits & vegetables effect their taste?
  50. Which freezes first, hot or cold water?
  51. Are there differences in different brands of bottled water?
  52. How “clean” is rain water in your area?
  53. What biological or chemical agents do the best job of cleaning up oil spills?
  54. Does the shape of ice affect melting time? Why?
Electrical & Structural Engineering/IT
  1. Do potatoes conduct electricity? Why?
  2. Does salt water light up a light bulb better than regular water? Why?
  3. How can you use magnets & wire to create electrical current?
  4. Does the size of a wheel affect the speed of a vehicle?
  5. How does the shape of a pinewood car affect its speed?
  6. How does the size of wire (or number of coils, or type of wire) affect the strength of an electromagnet?
  7. What materials make the best magnetic shields?
  8. What factors (for example, temperature, color of light, angle of light) affect the current, voltage and power generated by a solar cell?
  9. How can structures be made more impervious to collapse during an earthquake?
  10. How can structures be made more impervious to flooding?
  11. Do quarters and feathers fall at the same speed?
  12. How does the composition of various balls (i.e., rubber, marble, ping pong) determine how they bounce?
  13. What is the impact of lever length on the strength of levers? (Or, How does the length of a catapult affect its range?)
  14. How does shape affect buoyancy?
  15. What materials make the best shock absorbers (hint: test by dropping eggs from various heights!)
  16. Which materials work best as sound barriers?
  17. Does the particle size of sand used to make bricks (or concrete) matter?
  18. Can light from a Light Emitting Diode (LED) be modulated using sound?
  19. What materials work best in a sandbag for preventing a flood?
  20. Does a ceiling fan really reduce room temperature?
  21. Can eggs withstand a greater force from one direction than from others?
  22. How can a computer be used to break codes?
  23. Can encoded information (floppy discs, metro cards, credits cards, etc.) be affected by magnetism (NOTE: Adult supervision required for this one!)
  24. How is an electrical current affected by temperature (or magnetism, or type of conductor)?
  25. Is electrical current affected by the diameter of a wire?
  26. What affects the strength of an electromagnet?
  27. How many blades should a fan have?
  28. How does the shape of a kite affect its flight?
  29. What controls the descent rate of parchutes?
Earth Science
  1. Where is the current of a stream the fastest?
  2. Does the amount of water affect the size of a wave?
  3. What is the greater cause of water erosion in a stream – gradual erosion over time, or major events like storms and floods?
  4. How does topography affect weather conditions
  5. How do changes in air pressure affect weather
  6. How does the growth of vegetation affect soil erosion?
  7. What are the most effective ways to control soil erosion?
  8. How do stalactites and stalagmites form?
  9. How does the size of particles in rivers affect how fast they settle?
  10. What factors contribute to makes soils more or less porous?
  11. Can antacids help soil polluted by acid rain
  12. How do soils in different parts of our area differ?
  13. What affects evaporation the most … air temperature, water temperature or wind speed?
  14. What is the relationship between the depth of water and its temperature (or salinity, or pressure)?
  15. How does the construction of levies along rivers effect erosion & deposition patterns?
  16. Why do hurricanes gain more power over warm water than cold water? Demonstrate.
  17. Why is there no wind in the eye of hurricanes? Demonstrate.
  18. Why are winds highest in the eyewall of hurricanes? Demonstrate.
  19. How can earthquakes cause tsunamis? Demonstrate.
  20. How are average temperatures (or average rainfall) changing in your local area (or state? Or country? Or the world?)
  21. How can you measure wind speed?
  22. How can you measure atmospheric pressure?
  23. What is the difference between direct sun & shade? Is it constant or variable?
  24. Particle fallout: Does the amount of particle pollution in soil vary with distance from a road (or height, or location)?
  25. What happens to road salts applied to roads after the snow melts? What effect does this have on the environment?
  26. What would happen to weather if the Earth was a cube?
  27. How do obstacles affect water (or wave) motion?
  28. What factors influence the size, shape & other characteristics of cracks in dried mud?
  29. What does the shape of local streams & water features tell about the geology of the local area
  30. How much silt is there in a river at different times? How do specific events (rain, droughts, floods) affect silt levels?
  31. What factors influence dune shape, form and movement?
  32. What factors influence beach erosion?
  33. How can rock formations be dated by examining the fossils within them? (use a local formation as an example, if possible)
  34. How does naturally-occurring asbestos form? Is it as dangerous as the asbestos that contractors once used as insulation for buildings?
Social Science
  1. If you ask the same question in a negative and positive way, will you get different answers?
  2. Does the color of a questionnaire affect how people answer the questions?
  3. Do flashcards with pictures enhance memorization better than flashcards without pictures?
  4. Are poems with a lot of rhythm, rhyme & different sound devices easier to learn than those written in free verse?
  5. Do men and woman have the same “favorite colors”?
  6. Is text written in colored ink easier to remember than text written in black and white ink?
  7. Are horoscopes accurate? Can their accuracy be measured?
  8. At what age to people develop the ability to accurately estimate the number of marbles in a jar?
  9. How do various types of music affect concentration?
  10. Can subliminal messages really be used to affect how people make decisions?
  11. Is there such a thing as ESP?
  12. Can people really tell if they are being stared at?
  13. Can a computer program help people make decisions?
  14. Can computer games be used to encourage students to do homework?
  15. How good are we at hearing one voice in a crowd?
  16. In communities with voluntary recycling programs paid for by the community or state, what is the average level of compliance?
  17. Does a bath take less water than a shower?
  18. What is the average ratio of recyclable waste to unrecyclable waste in your house?
  19. Does the ability to memorize information vary during the course of a day? Does everyone demonstrate the same daily pattern?


20 Fun Geology Facts

Once upon a time I earned a degree in geology ... then came the oil glut (am I ever aging myself!) and I moved on to other careers.  These days, I retain just enough geology trivia to amuse my middle school students.  Here are some of my standards:
  1. Rubies and sapphires are actually the same mineral - corundum.  The basic chemical formula of corundum is Al2O3, but traces of iron stain the mineral red (ruby) while traces of chromium or titanium stain the mineral blue (sapphire).
  2. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds are all more rare than diamonds.
  3. Not all diamonds are clear.  They come in a variety of colors (called "fancies"), including yellow, green, blue, orange, brown ("champagne"), purple, grey, black (called carbanado, recently shown to be meteroic), milky white, pink, and red.  Red is by far the rarest.  
  4. Antacids taste like chalk because they ARE chalk, a.k.a. calcium carbonate.
  5. There are 18 volanoes in the US with the potential to erupt again, all of them in Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast states.
  6. Will Yellowstone spawn a "supervolcano" that will destroy the US?  ANSWER: Probably not.  The amount of rhyolitic magma just beneath the surface of Yosemite is relatively small at present, so even if it eventually "erupts" through the surface, should cause minor lava flows rather than a large supervolcano-type eruption. (For those who are still hoping the Mayans were onto something, however, a supervolcano-type eruption is technically possible.  USGS sets the odds of such an event occuring in the next few thousand years at 0.00014% .)
  7. The Gulf of California is a spreading zone - many millions of years from now, it will be an ocean.
  8. The earth is slipping along the San Andreas fault at a rate of about 2" per year.  This means that in about 15 millions years Los Angeles and San Francisco will be neighbors.
  9. California is sinking at a rate of about 4" per year. But you can't blame the San Andreas fault for this one; rather, sinking is due to pumping of natural underground water reservoirs.
  10. The Great Lakes, combined, contain more than 20% of the world's available fresh water. (Doesn't count underground aquafers or polar ice)
  11. People experiencing earthquakes in the Great Lakes region have the glaciers to thank - the earth there is still "rebounding" from having been smushed by glaciers during the last ice age. ("Smushed" isn't actually a geological term, but it should be.) 
  12. What country owns Antacrtica? ANSWER: No one - there's a treaty that establishes Antarctica as a "neutral zone" ... though no telling how much longer this will go unchallenged, since melting due to global warming has begun exposing huge oil reserves beneath Antarctica's surface.
  13. Despite what you've seen on Christmas cards and holiday specials, it rarely snows at the Earth's poles, because cold air is lousy at retaining moisture.  For this reason, both the Arctic and Antarctica are classified as cold deserts.  Overall, Antarctica receives more snow because it is surrounded by ocean (ice in the Arctic is ~2 miles thick); the Arctic, in contrast, sits in a virtual land-locked lake, and sports a mere 15 feet of ice.  This also explains why Antarctica rises some 9000 feet above sea level (the tallest continent by far) while the Arctic rises barely 1 foot above sea level.  
  14. People who wade into the Dead Sea automatically float.  Dissolved salts make the water so dense, humans are less dense in contrast and so float.
  15. What is the most earthquake-prone state in the US? ANSWER: Gotcha!  It's not California, but Alaska (see Item #3).
  16. What is the most dominant element in the air we breathe? ANSWER: Gotcha again!  Our atmosphere is 80% nitrogen.
  17. Iceland looks huge on a regular map, but it is approximately the size of Kentucky.  This is because the Mercator projection map we use to make lines of latitude and longitude lie flat inadvertantly makes countries nearer the poles appear HUGE. 
  18. Why doesn't the earth have as many craters as the moon?  ANSWER: We do!  Geologists have so far located ~170 impact craters on Earth. However, they are hard to spot because many of them have been gradually eroded away or been overgrown by vegetation. 
  19. About 200 million years from now, Asia and America will collide to form a supercontinent centered around the north pole.  Scientists already have a name for it: Amasia. (Because apparently scientists are better at predicting stuff than they are at naming stuff.)
  20. Every so often our magnetic poles "reverse" - the north pole and the south pole reverse their magnetism.  Scientists estimate this could happen again about 1000-2000 years from now ... So start relabelling your magnets now!