Where Do Ideas Come From?


Getting started on your Science Project? Trying to decide on a topic? Check out these helpful tips.


Wondering where to begin? Simply observe the world around you. Science is everywhere you look—in your kitchen, your garage, the skate park down the street, in a puddle or a tidepool, on an anthill or a ski slope, even in your uncle’s autobody shop. Think like a scientist.


The best topics are sparked by curiosity. The more compelling you find your topic, the more engaged you’ll be for the full six weeks. Plan to devote a good deal of time to brainstorming your topic. Visit your town or school library and flip through a stack of science magazines. Read about the latest trends and discoveries in the Science and Technology sections of your newspaper.


When it comes to brainstorming your topic, start big, then narrow it down. Remember, your topic must be narrow enough to be testable and measurable. It must also be manageable and capable of being mastered in a short period of time. Soon you’ll be expected to be an expert on your chosen topic and be able to answer questions from peers, teachers and perhaps judges. So keep it simple!


Come up with a list of questions. Things you’ve always wondered about; things you’re suddenly curious about. Then do some preliminary research to refine your questions. Next you’ll parlay the best one into a working hypothesis.


Subject Area: Food and Nutrition Topic: Vitamin C Questions: • Do oranges lose any Vitamin C after they’re picked off the tree? • Do whole oranges contain more Vitamin C than orange juice? • Do different brands of orange juice contain different amounts of Vitamin C? • Which fruits contain the highest concentrations of Vitamin C? • Does light or temperature affect the Vitamin C content of juice?


FOLLOW YOUR INTERESTS Let your hobbies be your guide. Learn about the Scientific principles behind your favorite activities, and then come up with some questions. Fiddle around with your ideas, figure out the best question and then formulate that into a hypothesis.

INTERESTED IN FASHION? Experiment with various natural ingredients to dye fabrics such as beets, berries, red cabbage, wildflowers, onion skins, nut shells, tea, and turmeric powder. Compare the breathability and heat retention of different fabrics.

SPORTS? Explore the physics behind skateboard tricks or snowboarding. Why do some balls bounce higher than others? Which makes a ball go faster—a metal bat or a wooden bat?

MUSIC? Build your own radio and uncover a Scientific problem along the way. Study the Scientific principles behind your favorite musical instrument. Compare the quality of analog (record) vs. digital (CD) sound recordings. Does room temperature affect the sound or pitch of musical instruments?

ART? Make a spin-painting machine to demonstrate centrifugal force. How is paint affected by temperature changes? How do museum conservators preserve paintings and textiles?

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY? Compare different digital image formats. How does the amount of compression affect a JPEG image? Examine DPI and image quality.

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