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Science Fair Project Guide

What is a Science Fair?

Display boards set up for judging at the California State Science Fair

Display boards set up for judging at the California State Science Fair

A science fair is an opportunity for students to do an independent science project following either the scientific method or the engineering design process. Students conduct their research then present their results at a science fair. Science fairs occur at different levels including classroom, school-wide, regional, state, and international. Typically students present their science projects to other students, teachers, and sometimes families at the lower levels. At higher level science fairs, students also present their projects to judges and prizes are awarded for the best science projects. Our directory of science fairs can help you find regional, state, and international science competitions in your area.

If you are interested in competing at advanced science competitions, our Advanced Project Guide, includes tips for success, how to get started in advanced research, finding a mentor, and much more.

How Do You Successfully Complete a Science Fair Project?

two students competing in a science fair
Students presenting their science project at a school science fair.

Doing a science fair project involves these four steps:

  1. Pick a science fair project idea. (Tip: Take the Topic Selection Wizard for a personalized list of projects just right for you!)
  2. Follow either the scientific method, if your project asks a scientific question, or the engineering design process, if your project identifies a problem to solve, to complete the hands-on part of your science fair project. (Tip: Watch the Which should you choose? Scientific Method versus Engineering Design Process video to help decide which process matches your science project best.)
  3. Create a science fair display board and/or presentation that explains what you did, shows your data, and presents your conclusions.
  4. Practice answering questions and talking about your science fair project so that you are ready to discuss it with the science fair judges. (Tip: Check out our Tips to Prepare for Your Science Fair Judging.)

What are Good Ideas for Science Fair Projects?

A good science fair project idea is one that asks a clear scientific question that can be answered through experimentation, or identifies a problem that can be solved using engineering. Avoid product comparisons as a topic as they usually are not based on a good scientific question. 

It's also important to have a science project idea that interests you so that you are motivated to do all the steps well. Our library of science project ideas has hundreds of great projects for you to choose from. Take the Topic Selection Wizard quiz for a personalized list of ideas that fit your interests.

Helpful hints for Success

Free science fair projects.