Archive for March, 2011

Define the Procedure for an Experiment

An experiment or series of experiments can make a good science fair project. However such a project is only successful if you keep careful records of all the steps that you followed in your journal. After you have defined the problem and set yourself a hypothesis to test you need to step wise designate the procedure that you will follow.

The procedure can be numbered step wise to make it easier for you to duplicate as often as you wish with a different set of variables. For instance you can use the hypothesis involving how fast an ice sculpture can melt with this set of steps. First form the ice sculpture with normal water, tap water or mineral water. Each of these can be a different experiment in the series.

Now place it outside the freezer to time how fast it melts. This is step two. You can place in indoors, outdoors, during the day and night as your variables. Then measure the temperature at the time you placed it outside. This would be step three. And of course record all the data that you collect in your journal as the last step of the experiment procedure. Fairly easy science project to do and will have excellent data.

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Setting up an experiment

The setting up of your experiments correctly will help you conduct proper experiments as part of your science fair project. The designing of a good experiment depends on three main parts – the problem, the hypothesis, and the process that you test the hypothesis with.

The problem is essentially any question that you wish to find a definite answer for. Now if we deal with the problem of how fast an ice sculpture will melt at a garden party we have a fixed set of variables to deal with. Some of these will be the purity of the water that is used to make the ice, the temperature in the garden at the time of day the party will be held, the air pressure and sea level affecting the place, etc.

Now factor in all these variables and make a clearly defined hypothesis such as “How long will it take an ice sculpture of 20 pounds weight take to melt in the garden in the evening if it is made of tap water in a place that is 354 feet above sea level.” Now you can go about the actual experiment of developing the ice sculpture and seeing how long it took to melt.

Record all the steps along the way in a journal. You can even get a line graph of how fast one sculpture melted in the day and how much longer it took a similar sculpture to melt at night. Endless variations can be part of the science fair project.

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What are the variables in an experiment?

When you do any science project you are in effect making a series of science experiments to define and prove a hypothesis. In this series of experiments that you do you will deal with a number of variables. Simply put a variable is something that changes its value during the process of the experiment.

However things are not quite as simple in a experiment so we will define a number of variables.  Essentially there are four different types of variables. The first would be the Independent variable. This is something that is changed during the conduct of the experiment. The next one would be the Dependent variable. This would be something that responds to the Independent variable during the experiment.

Next we have the Constant Variable. As the name suggests this is something that is kept the same throughout the series of experiments that you conduct. And then there is the Control. This is not exactly a variable but a similar test where the independent variable is left unchanged to provide a comparison to the remaining experiments. Think of it as a kind of guage to measure all the other experiments against.

As you can see defining the variables in your science fair project can make all the difference to your hypothesis. So be careful how you proceed with your records.

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Defining a Hypothesis clearly

A hypothesis is crucial to the scientific process. If you are making a science fair project following the scientific method you will need a well defined and clear hypothesis to test. Here we learn how to take all possible factors into consideration in a hypothesis that you form for your science experiment.

To make a guess you do not need any information at all but to define a hypothesis you need to do some research. Take for instance a simple problem such as how fast will an ice sculpture melt once it has been removed from the freezer. There are a number of factors that you need to consider before you make a guess for the time frame.

First will be the size of the ice involved. A smaller sculpture will melt faster than a larger one. Then you need to consider the temperature in the room that the ice sculpture has been kept. Naturally if the room is air cooled the ice sculpture will last longer than if its a garden party and it has been placed outdoors in the summer.

Another factor to consider is if the ice sculpture is made out of plain tap water or if it has some special chemicals added to it which may delay the melting time involved. You can even consider the effect of the elevation from the sea in your hypothesis. So you can see that clearly defining the hypothesis for your science project is a very important part of a successful experiment.

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What is a Hypothesis?

When you get down to working on a science fair project you are encouraged to start using the scientific method. The first part of the scientific method is to form a hypothesis. So what exactly is a hypothesis? Is it just a guess that you make or is there more to it? Let’s take a look.

A hypothesis is considered an educated guess. When you take a guess you have no clue about what you are facing, but when you make an educated guess you can be making a hypothesis. For instance if some one shows you a gift wrapped paper box and asks you what is inside you take a wild guess. If you know the person who is giving the gift and to whom he’s giving it you may be taking an educated guess and may get it right.

So your science fair project can be based on an educated guess such as the one above based on your knowledge of some facts. For instance if you take a cube of ice out of the freezer and place it outside it will melt. That’s a fact, but how soon will it melt? Guessing the time is a hypothesis you make. Will it be 30 minutes or more. How will the temperature of the room delay or speed up the time. You get the idea for a good science experiment with this hypothesis.

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