Page 1 of 1

Is this project advanced enough?

Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 7:09 pm
by duong_juli8
I am a 10th grader working on the following problem:

What is the effect of pure caffeine on the seed germination of 3 plants?

I will be using the same caffeine concentration for each plant, although still working on what plants to be used. So, I was wondering if this project is "exciting" and advanced enough for my grade. Thank you!

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 3:11 pm
by carolinethorn
I am not very experienced with science fairs but I would think it has more to do with how your present your ideas about the project. Some very exciting science can come from simple questions, if those questions spark an interest based on things that effect peoples lives. For example, Paul Nurse won the nobel prize for finding proteins in yeast that control how they grow - these proteins had great significance for the study of how cancer cells grow. Its an example of using a model system to find answers about something else.

Why are you choosing caffeine to test?
what interests you about plant germination and why is important?
is your idea a model for something that is happening in the world ?

its important to choose a project thats exciting to you. if its exciting to you, then your enthusiasm will be contagious to the judges!

best of luck,

Caffeine project

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 3:22 pm
by donnahardy2
Hi Juli,

Your question is a good one and I hope the following will be helpful.

Your project is a good topic and, if you do a complete and meticulous job in completing the project, you will certainly earn a good grade in science and perhaps a ribbon at the local science fair. And you will learn a lot about doing a controlled scientific experiment. This is definitely a worthwhile project.

However, the one thing that may be missing is a reason for doing the experiment. What is your purpose for doing the project? Is there some reason that you expect caffeine will affect seed germination? Will it speed up germination, prevent damping off fungus that often kills seedlings, repel cutworms or sow bugs that often eat seedlings, increase the germination rate, or improve the growth rate of seedlings? Caffeine is probably going to be inhibit plant growth, so will there be any benefit of using it? If so, then there is a real reason for doing the project and I would definitely proceed with the project.

Have you done some background reading that made you decide this was a worthwhile project? If so, what is your hypothesis? Does this experiment really test your hypothesis? If you can't answer these questions, then why don't you do some more background reading and see if you can change the project so you will be working on a problem that people are interested in solving? Personally, as a gardener, I would be very excited to see a project that was designed to solve the problem of damping-off fungus in new seedlings.

You have a little over 6 weeks before your project is due, so you can spend 2 or 3 more days thinking about this before you start the project. If you decide to proceed with the experiment, then go ahead and start as soon as possible. You might be surprised by the results and need time to repeat the experiment. Science fair judges are always impressed by experiments that are repeated (because it happens so rarely).

As a science fair judge, I always prefer a simpler project that is very well done to a complicated project that is flawed.

Let me know if you have any questions about my comments.

Donna Hardy

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:57 pm
by duong_juli8
thank you so much for your advice. i noticed that you were talking about "damping-off fungus in new seedlings." can you please give me some background about it? thanks.

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 11:13 pm
by duong_juli8
And also, is it better to perform the experiment with plants of similar species, or of different? This is just what I need to know, then I'll start gathering my materials! Thank you again!


Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 6:15 am
by hostsha

It is important for you to inform hypothesis when you ask for specific question like effect of caffeine on seed germination. I would think type of seed you use is one of the control factor in your experiment. Similar species will have same type of seed (seed coat) to begin with.

Other experts have given you wonderful insights for your experiment. I'm sure you have a procedure to follow as well. But make sure you have testable hypothesis for science fair.

I hope this helps.

Secondary School Teacher

Caffeine experiment

Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 8:11 am
by donnahardy2
Hi Juli,

Damping-off fungus is a group of fungi that kill germinating seeds and young seedlings. Anyone who has raised plants from seeds has had experience with this problem. Seeds may germinate and develop one set of leaves and then suddenly collapse and die, or sometimes they just don't germinate. Here is a site that gives more information on this problem: ... G1167.html

However, in thinking more about your project, I don't think it would be a good idea to work on this problem specifically, because you really don't have that enough time left before the project is due to change your topic. I think you should just go ahead and do your experiment as planned. If you have a problem with damping-off fungus in your project, you can include this as an observation in the results section. I think it would be better to start the experiment now and then repeat it, with improvements, if necessary. Be sure to set up the experiment with duplicate samples. Keep all of the conditions controlled, except the concentration of caffeine with each type of seed you use. How are you going to measure your results?

I think that some of the best projects are those that try to solve every day problems. So, when you have time, you should start thinking of something you are especially interested in for next year's project.

Donna Hardy