• Experiment

    How To Do A Science Project

     

    NASA Video - Overview

     

    Step #1 - Set Up Your Notebook

    The first thing is to set up your research notebook.  This is just like your class notebook in STEAM.  It will need the following sections:

    • Your name and Research Notebook on the front cover
    • Starting on page 1 you will need a Table of Contents.  Include a table that has the headings Date, Title, and Page.  I would save 3-4 pages for this section.
    • The remainder of the notebook will be used for all your information, notes, data, for each section of this project.
    • Number these pages beginning with 1.  For now, 20 - 30 pages should be enough.  Remember, you can always continue numbering if you run out.
    • You might want to consider adding section tabs to help you flip through the notebook quickly.

    Step #2 - Ask

    ask

    In the Ask step, you will select a topic for your science experiment and develop a question that is testable.  A testable question is one that you answer through conducting an investigation where your observations provide evidence. 

     

    NASA Video - Step 1: Get Your Idea and Do Some Research

     

    Brainstorming

    The first thing is to come up with a topic that your project will be about.

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Topic Selection and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Topic Selection.
    • Now it is time to start brainstorming things that interest you.  These could be hobbies, sports, things you wish you knew more about, etc. 
    • If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas, talk with your family or friends.  The Science Buddies website has a Topic Selection Wizard that may help you find project ideas.  If you use this site to help generate ideas, do not pick a specific project.  Instead, write down several ideas that interest you.
    • Write these ideas down in your notebook.  You want to come up with at least 5 or 6 ideas.

     

    Topic Selection

    • Narrow down your list to the 2 or 3 ideas that you think are the best.
      • Keep ideas that:
        • you can answer with a science experiment
        • have not already been answered
        • are approved by adults and your teacher 
      • Exclude ideas that:
        • are unsafe or dangerous
        • cannot be answered in 9 weeks
        • are too expensive
        • are too large
        • require large teams of people
        • are outside your skill set
        • use tools and materials you do not have or can easily get

    See the Project Topics to Avoid page for additional guidance. Projects to Avoid

     

    NASA Video - Step 2: Ask a Testable Question

     

    Testable Question

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Testable Question and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Testable Question.
    • Now it is time to develop a question that you want to answer for each of your 2 or 3 topics. This is one of the most important steps in the project.  When done correctly, it will save you many headaches during your project. 
      • A scientific question usually starts with: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where. 
      • Testable questions do not lead to a simple yes or no answer.

    test

     

    • Using the same criteria as before, select the question that you want to investigate.
      • Keep ideas that:
        • you can answer with a science experiment
        • have not already been answered
        • are approved by adults and your teacher 
      • Exclude ideas that:
        • are unsafe or dangerous
        • cannot be answered in 9 weeks
        • are too expensive
        • are too large
        • require large teams of people
        • are outside your skill set
        • use tools and materials you do not have or can easily get

    pick

     

    Research Plan

    • Create an entry in your Table of Contents titled Research and the page number where you will begin.
    • Go to that page in your notebook and title the page Research. Write your research and requirements on this page.
    • Background research is critical to your project as it will help you develop a good hypothesis, design an experiment to answer your question, and determine what materials you will need for your experiment.  
      • Begin by listing key words, phrases, things that you do not know about your topic.
      • Next, use these key words to generate research questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) to gather information.  
        • Who uses _____?
        • What causes _____?
        • When does _____ cause _____?
        • Where would you find _____?
        • Why does ____ happen?
        • How do you measure ______?
      • You should also plan to do background research on similar experiments.  This includes gathering definitions of important words and formulas for any math equations you might use in your experiment or to analyze your data.
      • As you start your research, you may need to add additional questions, since there may be new vocabulary or topics that you need to have more information about.  

     

    Step #3 - Predict

    predict

    In the Predict stage, you use your past knowledge and research to suggest an answer to your question.  

    Hypothesis

    A hypothesis is an educated guess based on your background research as to what you think the results will be based on what you do.

    • Create an entry in your Table of Contents titled Hypothesis and the page number where you will begin.
    • Go to that page in your notebook and title the page Hypothesis. Write your hypothesis on this page.
    • In most experiments, a hypothesis is written as an if / then statement: "If...I do this... Then... this will happen, Because... information you have researched."
    • Your hypothesis should be something that you can actually test.  This is what's called a testable hypothesis. In other words, you need to be able to measure both "what you do" and "what will happen."  

    hypothesis

     

    Step #4 - Investigate

    investigate

    In the investigate phase you need to set up your experiment to test your question.  You need to consider what materials you should use and how you will measure and collect data.

    NASA Video - Step 3: Design and Conduct Your Experiment

    Variables

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Variables and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Variables. Write your variables on this page.
    • It is important for an experiment to be a fair test. You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change only one factor while keeping all other conditions the same.
    • Scientists call the changing factors in an experiment variables.  A variable is any factor, trait, or condition that can exist in differing amounts or types. An experiment usually has three kinds of variables: independent, dependent, and controlled.
      • The independent variable is the one you change as part of your experiment (ex. the type of soil your plant will grow in). 
      • The dependent variable is the one you are recording the data on to determine which of the independent variables worked best (ex. height of the plant).
      • The controlled variable are those things you need to keep the same in the experiment to not affect the independent variable (ex. amount of soil, size of pot, amount of water, amount of light, temperature, etc.)

    variables

     

    Materials

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Materials and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Materials. Write your materials on this page.
    • It is important that your materials list be very specific.  This includes everything you used, no matter how small.
    • Make sure you also list the:
      • total quantity needed for the experiment
      • size
      • amount
      • specific type etc. 

     

    • Example:

    1 - size 4 (66 cm) soccer ball filled to 10 PSI

    1 - pair size 5 Nike soccer cleats (weight: 269 grams)

    1 - pair size 5 Nike running shoes (weight 198 grams)

    2 - 18 cm orange cones

    1 - natural grass youth soccer field 

    1 - 100 meter measuring tape

    1 - meter stick

    1 - 1 liter water bottle

    1 - science notebook

    1 - pencil

     

    Procedure

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Procedure and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Procedure. Write your procedure on this page.
    • You need to develop an experimental procedure for testing whether it is true or false.
    • The experimental procedure is like a step-by-step recipe for your science experiment.
    • A good procedure is so detailed and complete that it lets someone else duplicate your experiment exactly!
    • Repeating a science experiment is a necessary step to verify that your results are consistent and not just an accident.
      • For a typical experiment, you should plan to repeat it at least three times (more is better).
      • If you are doing something like growing plants, then you should do the experiment on at least three plants in separate pots (that's the same as doing the experiment three times).
    • All steps that require measuring it must be done in metric units (example: millimeters, centimeters, meters, grams, kilograms, milliliters, liters, etc.)
    • If you are doing an experiment that involves testing or surveying different groups, you won't need to repeat the experiment three times, but you will need to test or survey a sufficient number of participants to insure that your results are reliable. You will almost always need many more than three participants, usually more than 50!
    • Example:
      1. Gather all the materials.
      2. Travel to the soccer field.
      3. Starting at the goal line, stretch the measuring tape out the full 100 m distance.  Make sure that the zero starting mark is on the goal line.
      4. Place the meter stick in the opposite direction from the goal line.
      5. Place the two orange cones 1 meter apart at the end of the meter stick. This will be your starting point.
      6. Put on soccer cleats.
      7. Place the soccer ball on the goal line.
      8. Stand at the starting point between the cones.
      9. Run and kick the soccer ball.
      10. Measure the distance it traveled using the measuring tape you stretched out on the field.
      11. Record the distance the ball traveled in your data table in your science journal to the nearest cm.
      12. Repeat steps 7 through 11 at least 2 more times.
      13. Put on running shoes
      14. Stand at the starting point between the cones.
      15. Run and kick the soccer ball.
      16. Measure the distance it traveled using the measuring tape you stretched out on the field.
      17. Record the distance the ball traveled in your data table in your science journal to the nearest cm.
      18. Repeat steps 7 through 11 at least 2 more times.

     

    Data Table

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Data and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Data. Create your data table on this page(s) that you will use to record your observations.
    • A data table will ensure that you are consistent in recording your data and will make it easier to analyze your results once you have finished your experiment. 
    • Remember that the data table needs to be detailed enough to collect all your dependent variable information.
    • Create one column for each test.  There should be at least 3 columns for results.  The more columns, the more tests and the more accurate your results.
    • You will need a space to average the results of your trials. (Average = sum of each result divided by the number of results)

     

    Step #5 - Observe

    observe

    In the observe step, you conduct your investigation, make observations about what is happening in your experiment, and record your findings or data.

     

    Conducting the Experiment

    • Be as exact as possible about the way you conduct your experiment, especially in following your experimental procedure, taking your measurements (remember these must be in metric units).
    • It is very important to take very detailed notes as you conduct your experiments. In addition to your data you put in the data table, record your observations as you perform the experiment.
    • Remember to use numerical measurements as much as possible.  
    • Write down any problems that occur, anything you do that is different than planned, ideas that come to mind, or interesting occurrences. Be on the lookout for the unexpected. Your observations will be useful when you analyze your data and draw conclusions.
    • If possible, take pictures of your experiment along the way. These will later help you explain what you did and enhance your display.  They can also help you document your data and observations.
    • If your experiment also has qualitative data (not numerical), then take a photo or draw a picture of what happens.



    Step #6 - Explain

    explain

    The last step is to share what you have learned.  Be sure to explain the data and observations you recorded earlier.

     

    NASA Video - Step 4: Examine Your Results

     

    Data Analysis

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Data Analysis and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Data Analysis. As you analyze your data, write your findings on this page.
    • Really think about what you have discovered and use your data to help you explain why you think certain things happened.
    • The use of charts and graphs can help you analyze the data and patterns.  Ask the following questions:
      • What did I find out from my experiment?
      • Did I get the results I expected?
      • Why do I think that I got the results that I did?
      • What data supports this assumption?

    Calculations and Summarizing Data

    • Often, you will need to perform calculations on your raw data in order to get the results from which you will generate a conclusion.  
    • You should have performed at least 3 trials of your experiment. Think about the best way to summarize your data. In many cases, you will want to calculate the mean or average for each group of trials. (Mean/Average = sum of each result divided by the number of results) 
    • It may be necessary to summarize the results in some other way, such as ratios or percentages or as individual data points.
    • Make sure all formulas used for calculations are listed as part of your procedure.
    • All of the units for a measurement should be of the same scale– (keep L with L and mL with mL, do not mix L with mL!)

    Graphs

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Graphs and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Graphs. Draw your graphs on this page.  It is helpful to use graph paper to make the graphs and then attach them to the page.
    • For any type of graph:
      • Generally, you should place your independent variable on the x-axis of your graph and the dependent variable on the y-axis.
      • Be sure to include a title and label the x and y axis of your graph. Don't forget to include the units of measurement (grams, centimeters, liters, etc.).
      • If you have more than one set of data, show each series in a different color or symbol and include a legend with clear labels.
    • Different types of graphs are appropriate for different experiments. It is important that you use the correct graph!  These are the most common types of graphs used for elementary projects, and examples of when each should be used:
      • A bar graph is appropriate for comparing different trials or different experimental groups. It also may be a good choice if your independent variable is not numerical.
      • A line graph is most appropriate if your dependent variable is numerical and your independent variable is time.

    Conclusion

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Conclusion and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page conclusion. Write your conclusion on this page.
    • Your conclusion summarizes if your results support or contradict your hypothesis.  It is usually one paragraph in length.
    • Write a claim statement to support or contradict your hypothesis.
      • example - Kicking a soccer ball with cleats compared to running shoes will increase the distance it travels.
    • Support your claim with evidence by summarizing your project results in one or two sentences. Make sure it includes numbers from your data table.
      • example - My experiment showed that a soccer ball traveled an average of 7850 cm when kicked by soccer cleats, but only 5,975 cm when kicked by running shoes.
    • Include key facts from your background research to help explain your results as needed.
    • Summarize and evaluate your experimental procedure, making comments about its success and effectiveness.
    • Suggest changes in the experimental procedure and/or possibilities for further study.

    NOTE: If the results of your science experiment did not support your hypothesis, don't change or manipulate your results to fit your original hypothesis. Simply explain why things did not go as expected. Professional scientists commonly find that results do not support their hypothesis, and they use those unexpected results as the first step in constructing a new hypothesis for future experiments. If you think you need additional experimentation, describe what you think should happen next.

    Application

    • Begin by creating an entry in your Table of Contents titled Application and the page number where you will begin.
    • Next, go to that page in your notebook and title the page Application. Write your application on this page.
    • The application section is where you explain how your research results apply to the real world.  In other words, how will what you found out in your experiment help now or in the future?​
    • Applications are usually one to two paragraphs in length.

     

    NASA Video - Step 5: Communicate Your Experiment and Results

     

    Creating Your Display Board

    You are now ready to share your final product and the results of your testing with other engineers. You will be creating a poster to display your project.  Since this will represent you as a scientist, it should look professional.  It is recommended that all text is word processed and data tables and graphs are created with a spreadsheet program.  You will also present your project orally. 

    Poster

        • Using word processing software, type the following sections using information from your notebook:
          • Title
          • Testable Question
          • Hypothesis 
          • Materials
          • Procedure
          • Data
          • Analysis
          • Conclusion
          • Application
        • Draw a plan for your tri-fold poster using the example below.
          • The information must be placed in specific locations on the board, and match your plan to the example.
          • Add creative elements like colors, fonts, borders, etc. if desired
        • Obtain a tri-fold board
        • Print your sections 
          • Keep in mind that it needs to be easily readable from about 3 feet away, so you should use at least a 24 point font.
          • Make sure your printed sections will fit on the tri-fold according to your plan.
        • Attach the printed sections, project pictures, and creative details to your board

    Display Board

    Examples: Complete Board   Title   Testable Question / Hypothesis / Materials   Procedure   Data 1   Data 2   Data Analysis   Conclusion / Application

     

    Presenting Your Findings

    • Write a 3-5 minute speech summarizing your project. Remember to include:
      • Your Name
      • Project Title
      • Your Problem
      • A summary of the Background Research and Requirements
      • A description of how you designed and built your product.  Make sure to include the materials you used.
      • A summary of your evaluation process and the results
      • Your future ideas
    • Practice your presentation in front of your tri-fold board 
      • Make sure you can present your speech without reading from your board
      • Practice until you feel and sound confident 
      • Make sure you are speaking loudly and clearly
    • Think about questions someone might have about your project 
      • Practice answers to these questions
    • Give your presentation to fellow engineers 
      • Make eye contact with your audience 
      • Answer questions - it is okay to say "I don't know"
      • Write down ideas that your audience suggests for future improvement