Selecting a Project
For many students, deciding on the objective of their research project appears to be a difficult and frustrating experience. Unfortunately, some students feel that they must have a highly complex project in order to be successful. This is simply not the case. Each year students do excellent science and engineering projects through experiments, which try to answer very basic and fundamental questions about phenomena, or situations they encounter on a daily basis. As students formulate the title and objectives for their projects, they should be strongly encouraged to use the many books, journals, magazines, and newspapers available to them in their school and local public/university libraries, in addition to their own ideas and everyday experiences. There are also many excellent web sites for science and engineering that can provide students with ideas and resources.
After students have selected their project, they should complete and obtain all approvals for the Adult Sponsor/Safety Assessment Form (1), Research Plan (1A), Research Plan Attachment, and Approval Form (1B), and then immediately determine if any additional approvals are needed before starting their project research. On completion of their research, students should review the project display rules and the SEFH judging criteria and procedures. It is also important that they enter their project in the most appropriate category. If, for example, a student enters a botany project in chemistry, judges who are professional chemists will judge it as a chemistry project. No category changes are allowed after project entry or at the fair site.
Each year many parents, guardians and teachers ask the question, "How much assistance should we give the student on his/her project?" There is no simple answer to this question. When students pursue graduate degrees in science and engineering, most of their major professors provide them with the general (and in many cases, the exact) topic for their research. The professor also serves as a close mentor while they perform the research and formulate their conclusions. To a lesser degree, this same procedure is followed in the "real world" of business and industry. In addition, very few major scientific accomplishments are truly the work of just one individual. The Fair does expect that most of the work presented in a project is based on the efforts of the student. This is a major reason why our judges spend so much time questioning the students about their project. To our knowledge, no other fair in the world devotes as much time to this portion of the judging process as SEFH. We appreciate and encourage the fact that many projects end up involving the entire family.