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Carly M's Science Fair Project Blog

by Carly

Introduction to My Blog

This blog was started one month into my science fair project, so the first entry will recap everything I did during that month. I wrote this blog in letter form. The purpose of this blog is to help first time students with their project. I can't give personal advice but I can give you the general do's and don'ts of science fair that hopefully will come in handy. This is only my second time doing science fair and last year I got pretty far with my project. Read my first entry to find out exactly how far. This year I wanted to share the knowledge I acquired from last year with you so I started a blog. Hope you enjoy it.

Cheerio' Carly
(And yes, I will end all of my entries with Cheerio')

This Year's Project

This year's project is about recycling. The question I'm trying to answer is "How does convenience affect people's recycling behaviors?" This project falls into the categories of both human behavior and environmental science. The hypothesis for my question is that most people will not take that extra step to recycle unless the bin is right in front of them. Presenting people with two recycling options will test this hypothesis. One option will place both trash cans and recycling bins close together. The other option will have the recycling bins less convenient than the trash cans and seeing which option people take.


November 28

Dear Blog,

This is my first blog entry for the middle school science fair. Up to this point I have done a lot of work on my project. You know science fair isn't easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to really make your project special, something that will impress the judges and will get you as far as I did. This year is my second year doing science fair. Last year I did my project on how color affects taste perception and I did pretty well. I ended up getting a superior at my middle school, at district and at state. Pretty amazing, I know! I was pretty amazed. Well let's get back to this year.

Last year I made some pretty big mistakes and this year I promised myself that I won't make them again. They were simple things like waiting to long to make copies of the survey or mixing up my "effects" and "affects" (they are confusing!) So far this year I haven't made too many stupid mistakes and I plan not to. This year I have done many things to help my project including keeping a Lab Notebook, (that is very important. Not only will it help you remember what you discovered and learned but it will really help impress the judges, especially if you have a good one), taking lots of notes, talking to and setting up meeting times with people in the community that might be able to help me with my project, going over my Review of Literature and Experiment Plan several times to make sure that it is the best it can be, and working with my teacher and taking her suggestions to heart and trying to improve my project.

You know, talking to people in your community can be very helpful. They have access to information that can help you support you hypothesis and can give you help that you can only imagine finding. Your peers can also help you. Being your age they can tell you if there is something that you need to improve or change. Most of the time they will be perfectly honest with you and that can be very helpful. Well got to go!

Cheerio' Carly

November 29

Dear Blog,

I have been working on my project for over five weeks now!!!!! Today I took a big step into my project. After school I met with a lady who works in my community in the recycling field, (Which just happens to be the field of study I'm doing for my science fair project) and got some great information. I got numbers for Delaware City's recycling program and numbers for Delaware and the neighboring counties' recycling programs. Here in central Ohio we really have a great recycling program established. She offered to help me with my project and will be providing me with recycling bins that I will use in my testing. I also got information about how to start recycling programs in the schools which I'm hoping to do in my own middle school.

Some things that I still need to get done are

Well I've got to go. I have many phone calls to make. Ahh!!! There are so many!!

Cheerio' Carly

December 2

Dear Blog,

Wow, I did a lot of talking tonight! First, I talked with the athletic secretary who is in charge of the tickets for the basket ball games. She said that she would be willing to help me out by keeping track of the ticket numbers. That was a big relief! You see in order for my project results to come out right I need a count of how many tickets were sold so I can compare people to the number of recycled concessions.

Then I talked to the custodian who is there during the games. She was really friendly and was willing to help me out in any way she could. I was very relieved again! This testing should be easier than I thought She is the person I wanted to have on my side because part of my project includes going through the trash and I would need her help for that.

I also talked to the people running the concession stand. I asked them about how they run it and if they kept a count of what they sold. As it turns out they don't keep track of what they sold so, I had to do some quick thinking and come up with a solution. (Quick thinking is a good skill to have when doing a science fair project. Often things will go wrong and you'll have to decide right then and there what you are going to do to fix them.) I decided to come in before the games and count the number of bottles and then count them again after the game and just subtract the two. Aren't I a genius! The good thing is that all the people I talked to said that they were really interested to help me and to see what results I got when this thing is over. So at least I know my project will be useful to somebody.

Cheerio' Carly

December 3

Dear Blog,

Today I didn't do anything exciting for my project but I did work on and revise my Review of Literature. The Review of Literature is a very important part of any project. It is what tells your readers how much time you spent researching your topic and learning as much as you can about what you are testing. My R.O.L. (Review of Literature) has a minimum requirement for 700 words and mine is over 2,000. See what happens when you put a little hard work into something. You get a fabulous piece of writing that you never knew you could do. A bit of advice, when you have a big paper to write, start several weeks in advance and don't wait till the last minute to start. If you do, the night before it seems like the world is against you. Your internet stops working, you printer is out of ink, your computer crashes. (These were all taken form previous experience so learn form my mistakes and don't do any of the above.) Well, I have to keep writing.

Cheerio' Carly

December 5

Dear Blog,

Today I contacted a person in my community about getting recycling containers for use in my project. She was willing and pulled out five boxes that I can use for my testing. By the way it sounds they will need a little T.L.C. before they are ready to use but that's nothing I can't handle.

Cheerio' Carly

December 6

Dear Blog,

Today I'm revising my Review of Literature for the last time before I turn it in for a final grade. I've gone over the check list several times, had my mom proof read the paper twice and have revised it almost every other night. I feel ready even though it is worth 125 points of our final grade! Oh well I know I'll be fine.

Cheerio' Carly

December 10

Dear Blog,

Today I spent over an hour and a half and a whole roll of packing tape decorating my testing bins. I had to cover up several words that were already on the box and put other designs on it so that people would understand what they need to do. It took forever but they look great.

I also sat down with my mom and discussed my testing patterns. See, the way I want to test my hypothesis is by presenting people with two options for recycling. These options will be presented on two different nights but we couldn't decide what option to test first. The first option will place both trash cans and recycling bins close together. The second option will have the recycling bins less convenient than the trash cans. Whether we test the first option or the second option first was our problem. The problem with the first option first is that the second night people will be expecting the recycling bins and if they are not there then they will get confused and mess up my numbers. We decided on testing the second option, the one with only the two trash cans first.

You see often times you will think you have something all worked out and then when you really think about it there is one minor flaw that if you don't take care of right now your results will be off. That is what happened in this case but, luckily we caught it in time and were able to fix it.

Cheerio' Carly

December 12

Dear Blog,

Today I wrote letters to the people who are going to help me test my project. The letters included all the details about my project and the exact dates and times for when I will be testing. It's important to keep people informed otherwise they might not be able to help you to the best of their ability.

Cheerio' Carly

December 13

Dear Blog,

Tonight I made several phone calls to people in the community. I need some help with my project because I will be using our high schools basketball concession stand and I need to know how it is run and who runs it. The first call I made gave me some great insight on how the stand is run and exactly what I would have to do while I helped out. The second call put me in contact with the lady in charge of the concession stand and she said she had no problem with me going in before hand and getting a count of the plastic soda pop bottles (vital part of my experiment). She also told me what time to come so that I would have plenty of time to count and set up my experiment. Without those phone calls I wouldn't have been able to do anything for my project. Not only did they give me information but also they gave me permission to do my testing there and that was really helpful because if they didn't agree I don't know what I would do.

Cheerio' Carly

December 15

Dear Blog,

Tonight I did the first test run of my experiment. This test was going to help prove my hypothesis by having the recycling bins right next to the trash cans. Throughout the night we would go and empty the trash and recycling bins and count how many plastic bottles were in each. At first there really wasn't much trash to go through because the number of the people at the game was small. Then as the night went on, the varsity game was being played, and we had lots of trash. You know it seems like common sense but it never hit me how much trash 600 people can create. After digging through trash bags and picking bottles out of the stands I realized how my hypothesis might be right-- that unless the recycling bins are convenient people won't recycle.

Since it was our first testing night we ran into a few problems but that was expected. Some of the problems were as follows:

The first time that you do a testing you can expect that you will run into problems especially if you are working with human subjects. You can do a million test runs and think that you have it perfect and all the bugs worked out but once you test it something is bound to go wrong. After all it is science and you learn form your mistakes. Part of having problems is learning how to solve them and I think I did a pretty good job of it. For our next testing I will put the trash bags in order when I take them out of their bins and dump out the content right after the sorting before we take then to be recycled and guard the bins after the game so they stay in the same position. I will also keep a running count of the attendance as they come in.

Even though one of my problems was that my recycling bins weren't well marked, since I have already started my testing and if I changed their look I would be changing the variables and that is a MAJOR DON'T! I learned that the hard way last year and it was a pain to fix so take my advice now and even though they may not work out the way you want, don't, I repeat, DON'T, change your variables once you've started testing.

Cheerio' Carly

December 16

Dear Blog,

Tonight was my second testing. It went better than last night and I'd say that we got some really good data from it. Because tonight I had the recycling bins apart from the trash cans my hypothesis was supported in saying that when the two bins are apart people didn't recycle as much. I said as much because we still had a few people recycle and that made me happy.

What didn't make me happy was that we still had a few minor bugs to work out. Because I got there late they had already put the bottles that I needed to count in the ice. For my testing I needed to know exactly how many bottles we sold at the game and to get that count I had to stick my hands in ice and pull out and count individual bottles of pop. Not fun. If you ever do an experiment that involves traveling to your testing site try to get there early rather than late because being late can have consequence that you could have avoided.

During the testing some people that we knew came up and talked to us. They knew what I was doing for my science fair and they gave me some suggestions about what would have worked better. They liked the recycling bins placement but they thought that the color, shape, and size of the bin should have been different. They said that when they think of recycling they think of green and the container should have been an unusual shape so it draws people's attention. Also they said that it should have had an open opening at the top for bottles instead of the slits that I'm using. They were all really good suggestion and even though it is too late to use them this year I will keep them in mind if I consider doing another project next year. If you are ever presented with people wanting to give you constructive criticism or suggestions, on how to make your testing better don't be offended because they are just trying to help. They are only trying to help because they care so listen to what they have to say because they may give you a piece of advice that will either spark another question or it may not, but it never hurt anyone to listen.

Cheerio' Carly

December 19

Dear Blog,

Tonight I did my second to last testing. I got some great observations that I will definitely use in my report. When you write your results and conclusion parts of you research paper make sure to always include some observations that you made. The data that I collected will be really helpful to. Even after three games I can tell that my hypothesis was supported. Another thing that I learned tonight is a repeat form last year and it was that you should never assume anything because if you do it will backfire on you and then you have to try your best to fix the problem.

Cheerio' Carly

December 23

Dear Blog,

Since I had done 3 trials out of the four I decided to go ahead and start my data analysis. Graphs and tables that are nicely done and displayed on your display board help to impress the judges. Putting all your data in the computer and getting the graphs to look just right takes time so you want to start early. When you start to plan out what your display board is going to look like choose a basic color scheme of about 2 or 3 at the max. 4 colors and stick with them throughout out your design. Also decided on these colors early because you will want your graphs to all be the same colors and match the board. Well got to go.

Cheerio' Carly
For more info on Display Boards visit: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/mentoring/project_display_board.shtml

January 2

Dear Blog,

Tonight I did my last testing. I didn't really see the results that I was looking for but what can you expect when there weren't a lot of people there and it has been two weeks since the last game. When I really think about it I'm not sure if I really have enough data to support my hypothesis. I might end up doing another trial run. Remember you can always run multiple tests and in fact I would suggest it. The more data you have the less of an impact simple flaws will have. You also want to make sure that you get your testing done in a timely fashion so that if you do find that you need to run more trials you have the time to do so.

Cheerio' Carly

January 14

If you had asked me a week ago I would have told you that I was done with my testing but when I went back and looked at my data I decided that I needed a third trial run of data to effectively conclude the outcome of my experiment. I just got home form the first night of the added trial and I am pleased with the results that I got. Sometimes putting in a little extra effort to make your project a little bit better will really pay off.

Cheerio' Carly

January 21

Okay, now I can officially say that I have done that last trial for this science project and I am glad to be done. I have put so much work into this project. When you finish something big, like the testing part of a science fair project, you get a great feeling of accomplishment. You should feel proud, epically if this is your first project because you have survived the testing, one of the hardest parts.

Cheerio' Carly

February 1

Today in class we went over the dos and don'ts of note cards. When you write out what you are going to say for your presentation it's important that you start early. That way you have time to practice in front of people and make changes to it to make it even better. Write your notes in short bulleted memory joggers on a decent sized note card. Write big, skip lines and write in pen so you can read it. I have even heard of people color-coding their note cards. One piece of advice was to use a ring to keep your note cards in order. Nothing is more embarrassing than dropping your note cards right before your judges arrive and having your cards out of order for your presentation. Good luck with writing your own speech!

Cheerio' Carly

February 4

Today is the day in which to plan to have my entire report written and in one document. Right now the bits and pieces of it are all saved in different files so it should be interesting to try to put it together. When you put your report together remember to have your pages numbered and each different section on its own separate page. Also have someone else look over the report to catch any errors that may have occurred in the combining process. It won't be perfect the first time so keep revising it until you are sure it a presentable piece of writing. I know I will.

Cheerio' Carly

February 14

In my science teacher's room we have a count down until our school science day and its two weeks from today. Now we officially go into crunch time. This is the time where you want everything to go smoothly and if it doesn't it seems like the end of the world. When you get into the few weeks before you just have to stay calm and relaxed and go with the flow. If you don't feel like working on your report work on your poster instead but don't procrastinate. Parents aren't very happy with 10 o'clock trips to Wal-Mart the night before the fair because you didn't get all the supplies before hand. My biggest advice is to do a little bit each night before hand. Get it all done so the night before all you have to do is practice you speech and go to bed because you are all prepared. But what ever you do DON"T PROCRASTINATE!!!!!!

Cheerio' Carly

February 16

Today in class we had a peer review session in which we gave our final reports to another classmate to have them proof one last time before we turn it in. Right now I'm going over their suggestions and correcting my report. I had two people look over mine and I guess it's a good thing because they sure found more mistakes that I sure could have. You just have to look at their constructive criticism with a kind eye. If you don't like one of their comments, don't take it to heart they are just trying to help.

Cheerio' Carly

February 19

Today, I worked on so many aspects of my project it's insane. It just seems as if there is so much to do right before the big day. I finished my note cards. (I had to redo the originals because I had so many reminders for myself, like smile and make eye, contact written on them I could barely read what I wrote.) I got all the supplies I needed for my poster and started mapping out where everything is going to go. I also got my written report almost ready for the big turn in date.

Cheerio' Carly

February 21

One week to go. I can't believe it. This time had gone so fast. It seems as if it was yesterday I was on the science buddies topic selection wizard trying to pick out a project idea. I printed out my report and graphs and tables for the last time. Man does it feel good to get that over with. It did take a little bit of effort to get my report into the report cover but we finally got it. A piece of advice, buy a report cover that matches your poster and buy one that opens easily because having to use a fork and two people to get your report in the cover is too much. So learn from my mistakes and chose wisely

Cheerio' Carly

February 24

Four days and counting until the big day. I can't wait. I just finished trying on the clothes that I plan to wear for the judging. It's a good thing I did to because we discovered that a few of the things that I was planning to wear were too small for me. We had to find another outfit for me to wear. It was a good thing that we discovered it early or else I would have been stuck wearing too small shoes and a shirt the barely reached my belly button (Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little).

You want to dress to impress and look like you are going for an office interview. So that means no jeans, guys nice slacks and a tie always works and girls a nice skirt or slacks works just fine. Remember you want to look nice but still be comfortable. It is nerve racking to have to present in front of judges and you should be focused on you presentation and your wonderful project not the clothes you're wearing. Oh and when in doubt, listen to your mom. She knows what she's talking about. Trust me you'll thank me later.

Cheerio' Carly

February 27

The Night Before

Okay, so I feel pretty good right now. I have everything all set for tomorrow after school. My clothes are set out, my bag is packed, and my board, logbook and report are all ready to be set up in the morning. All I have to do is practice my presentation a few more time to get it just right for tomorrow's judging. Practice in front of your most critical parent and use your board while you do it. That way when you present in front of your judges it won't be the first time with your poster. Practice in front of mirror or better yet videotape yourself and watch it so you can see your body language. Communication is 20% verbal and 80% physical. Your body needs to say the same thing as your mouth in order for you to effectively communicate your findings. Get a good night sleep as well. Just keep telling yourself that you will be fine and everything will go smoothly on the day of judging.

Cheerio' Carly

February 28

Judgment Day

I just got home from my judging. At our school, we had the judging in rounds and I was in the third round so I was right in the middle of things. I have to admit it seems nerve racking at first but once things get going you relax a little bit. Don't worry, it's natural to be a little bit nervous but don't let yourself get carried away. Just think positive thoughts and tell yourself that you can do it and you'll be fine.

You are an expert on your topic and probably know more about it than your judges do so tell them how much you learned over the past four months. If your teacher gives you requirements to cover follow theirs but if not just hit the basics. Your judges might ask you questions and try to answer their questions to the best of your ability but if you can't tell then honestly that you don't know- don't try to make up an answer. Remember that this is your time to shine — don't let nerves get in the way. Like Nike says "Just Do It."

Cheerio' Carly

Afterwards

Well I hope that you have had a wonderful and enlightening experience with this year's science fair project. Now I know that there were the good times and the bad but over all I think that you'll agree with me when I day that it has been a wonderful learning experience. You should all be so proud of everything that you accomplished. I know I am. Even if you don't get the rating you are hoping for, still walk out of there with a smile on your face. Know that you did your personal best and be satisfied with the work that you did. I hope that this had been a good past few months and that you will consider doing another project next year.

Cheerio' Carly