Academic journal article Science and Children

Researchers Advise on Science Fair

Academic journal article Science and Children

Researchers Advise on Science Fair

Article excerpt

The classic vinegar-and-baking soda volcano has gone the way of the dinosaur as a prize-winning science fair project. In the realm of hypercompetitive and wired classrooms teachers, students, and parents are feeling the pressure to step up the science when it comes to choosing and executing this annual assignment.

There is no shortage of science fair activity ideas online these days, and a child--or adult--can easily get lost looking at endless lists of homemade battery setups. But one site is taking the search for a winning project one step further by enlisting working scientists to help design cutting-edge experiments that qualify as real research.

Science Buddies, founded by engineer and dad Kenneth Hess, launched about 10 years ago. It now has so much scientist-generated material that a 26-question survey is required to match users with projects that best match their interests (e.g., "Do you enjoy watching or participating in sports?" "Do you like animals more than machines?" "Do you prefer thinking about a problem in your head more than doing it with your hands?").

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The goal is to encourage and help "students who didn't have an engineer as a father," Hess said in a prepared statement. Scientists can submit a plan for a project inspired by their research. Some of these impressive projects include applying a Princeton University research group's radio telemetry data to student's own observations of songbirds to study bird migration and navigation; another, posted by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team, guides students to find "new catalysts for splitting water" in the search for water-based fuel, Hess and his colleagues described in a letter in Science. …

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