• The Display

     
    Abstract - At the secondary level, when you can go on to the Houston Regional Science Engineering Fair, it is very common for students to have a brief, 1 page abstract of their work.  This is a short summary that you can give to the judges to help them remember your work when they are comparing it to other projects.  It should describe what your objective was and what results you achieved.
     
    Report - Also at the secondary level, and sometimes at some elementary schools a report is required.  The Report is a professional looking description of your work.  It should be more detailed than the Abstract, and it should contain all of your research as well as all of your results. Pretty much everything that you put on the Display also belongs in the Report.
     
    Display - About 2 weeks before the Science Fair, prepare your display.  Most people use a trifold display made of cardboard.  It should be organized in an orderly and logical manner.
     
    Display Board
     
    All of the information needed for the Display should be in your laboratory notebook, and can be just copied onto the display.  It does not need to be typed, it can be hand written, but it should be neat and easy to read.  At the secondary level, at the Regional Science Engineering Fair of Houston the display should be computer printed.  Students often artistically enhance their display boards.
     
    Layout for the Display is very important.  Each section should have a heading.  Here are some general rules to follow for your Display:
     
    • The Objective, Goal, or Question should be located either at the top of the center section or at the top of the left section.
    • The Hypothesis should be located next in the left section. 
    • This would be followed by the Materials or Equipment section also on the left panel.
    • The Process steps should be located either at the bottom of the left section or next in the center section,
    • Most of the center section is a place for you to include your Results or Data.  Pictures, tables of data, and graphs should be put in this area.
    • The Conclusion should be at the top of the right section.
    • Acknowledgements should be included next in the right section.
    • Future Work is the last section on the right.
     
    Here are some concepts that are valuable in science fair project displays:

    • At secondary levels, pictures should not include faces.  At the elementary levels this is not an issue.
    • Control all of your variables except those that you are testing.  Think about what variables exist that could change the outcome of your project.  Pick one that you want to test.  Do everything you can to keep the others constant.  For example:  Is the temperature of the room an issue?  Is the gender (male/female) of your test subjects important?  Is the age of your test subjects important?  Have you controlled wind currents in your test area?  It the amount of sunlight kept constant?
    • Tables of data are good, but charts or graphs of the data are many times more valuable.  Use pie charts, bar graphs, and line charts to show trends in your data.
    • Calculate averages.  This is a little advanced for a kindergarten student, but it really is not too difficult.  The idea is simple:  you have lots of data for a specific situation.  It is easier to understand what is happening if you can show just one number that represents all of that data.  For example:  You are growing plants.  You have 10 plants in each situation (case) and you are measuring how much they have grown.  The data table shows all 10 values for each situation.  But it is more useful to show one number that represents the height of all of the plants.  What we need to see is the Average value for that situation.  Here are the steps:

    1. Gather the data (7, 8, 10, 7, 10, 5, 9, 9, 6, and 9). 
    2. Add all the heights together for each situation (sum = 80).
    3. Count how many heights you have measured for that situation (count = 10).
    4. Divide the sum by the count.  This is your average height (average = 80 / 10 = 8).

     

    At the secondary level, there are also times when the Standard Deviation in your data is valuable.  Standard Deviation is a measure of how close your individual data values are to the average value and indicates how good your data is.  Here are the steps:

    1. Gather the data (7, 8, 10, 7, 10, 5, 9, 9, 6, and 9). 
    2. Calculate the Average as shown above (average = 8).
    3. Calculate how from the average each of your values are (-1, 0, 2, -1, 2, -3, 1, 1, -2, and 1).
    4. Multiply each number by itself (square them) (1, 0, 4, 1, 4, 9, 1, 1, 4, 1)
    5. Add these numbers together (sum = 26).
    6. Divide this by the number of data points (count = 10).
    7. Divide the sum by the count (sum / count = 26 / 10 = 2.6).
    8. Calculate the Standard Deviation by taking the square root of this value (SD = sqrt(2.6) = roughly 1.6).
    "sqrt" means to take the square root of the value inside the parentheses.