by Amber Hess
Most people think that science fairs are an event where children explain a very simple, and most likely overused science fair project. In fact, just the other day my friend told me that when she was getting her board done, someone from Aaron Brothers asked her "Aren't you too old for science fairs?"
But science fairs actually mean a lot more than most people think. There is so much that you can get out of a science fair.
- Obviously, you learn a lot about science
- Students do not write a whole lot in school. A science fair may be the longest paper you've ever written, so it actually helps you improve your writing skills.
- Presenting in front of a judge allows you to improve communication and social skills
- You can earn money from doing this, which I'm sure most of you think is really cool. The Intel Science Talent search competition for high school seniors gives out more than $1,250,000 in awards. And there are a lot of other competitions that are similar, such as the International fair, and the Siemens Westinghouse competition.
- You can also win a lot of recognition. Standing out from others on a resume is very important, and science fairs will allow you to make an outstanding college resume. I don't think many people realize what a big deal winning at one of these fairs is. If you win at the county, state, national, or international level, you should be extremely proud of yourself, because it is very hard to do.
- When you finish a project, you feel really great about yourself that you completed such a challenge.
- You can make a lot of wonderful and brilliant friends through science fairs. Each year I meet new people and we have become good friends.
- But most importantly, you know that mysterious hobby that you are good at, but can't seem to find? Science fairs have given me a passion for science I never thought I would have. And I hope that if you stick with it, you will too.
These are just a few of the benefits I could think of that science fairs give you. And you can get all of these things, starting right here, at the county science fair. Right now, I'm sure many of you are just interested in the money and the recognition you might gain from winning. But as you grow older and do more sophisticated projects you will truly realize all of the other things that you've gained from your science fair experiences. A lot of you right now may be saying to yourself, I'm never going to be able to win at a prestigious fair like that!
But believe it or not, I was just like you. In seventh grade I won a second place award at county. I was an alternate, and was lucky enough to go to the California State Science Fair. I didn't win anything there, but I had so much fun I was determined to go back the next year. I don't think I would be here if I had not gone to the CA state science fair that year. So I encourage you to keep trying and creating projects, even if you don't win. If you work hard enough you could also have a great science fair career.
I would also like to talk about some things I've learned that are crucial to win an award:
- One of the most important things a judge looks for is the theory behind your project. Why does your experiment turn out the way it does? So you not only need to understand your experiment well, but the science behind the experiment. For example, if you are doing a project with robots, you would need to study about electricity or computer programming (if there is any).
- At the state science fair, judges don't even look at your boards beforehand, so practice explaining your project, so you are comfortable. That is a good suggestion for any fair.
- Ask for input and advice, and then take it. After county I incorporate feedback that I received into my project. I email all of my judges from the state science fair each year, and one of them has become a great mentor and friend. I was able to improve my project the next year with her advice. Not only that, but the mentors can be an excellent source for recommendations.
- A great source of how to information and tips is the science buddies website at www.sciencebuddies.org
I really hope that all of you will keep entering in science fairs, whether you win or not. I cannot emphasize how much I have benefited from the fairs I have entered. So enter as many as you possibly can. If you have a chance to go to any competition, not just science fairs, you should do it. If you qualify for state, go. If you don't win the award you hoped for, seek advice and try again next year. You never know what could happen!