Science Fair Project Do’s and Don’ts
- | Before You Start | Project Types
- Grade Categories
- Challenge Categories
- | When Developing Your Project | Rules and Regulations
- Project Components
- Log Book
- Written Report
- | Preparing Your Presentation | Poster and Display Area
- Safety Requirements
- Presentation Tips
- Additional Resources
Before You Start
- Read through this page, and consult The Guide to Completing your Science Fair Project
- Make sure you understand the rules and regulations listed below before you start your project, to ensure your work is conducted properly. Failure to follow these rules and regulations will result in disqualification from the fair.
- Research your topic
- Plan your Experiment, Study, or Innovation
- Take the Ethics Quiz. For some projects, forms must be completed before you start your project. Complete the quiz to determine which form(s) your project will require.
Looking for inspiration? You may check out the winning projects in previous years here.
The most common types of science fair projects are experiments, innovations and studies. Projects of each type are equally capable of winning top awards at the fair, provided they meet the necessary criteria.
- Experiment: This is the most common type of science fair project. A winning exhibit of this type should involve an original scientific experiment to test a specific hypothesis in which the young scientist recognizes and controls all significant competing variables and demonstrates excellent collection, analysis, and presentation of data. The judge should also realize that significant positive findings are not regarded as an essential result from the project. The experimental design is more important than the results.
- Innovation: A project of this type would involve the development and evaluation of new (or significant improvements to existing) devices, models, techniques or approaches in the chosen field of study. A winning project should integrate several technologies, inventions, or designs and construct an original technological system that will have commercial application and/or benefit to society. It must demonstrate how the innovation was designed or developed on the basis of a sound understanding of the scientific, engineering, or technological principles involved.
- Study: This type of project involves the collection and analysis of data from other sources to reveal evidence of a fact, situation, or pattern of scientific interest. This could include a study of cause and effect relationships or theoretical investigations of scientific data. A winning exhibit in this area must be able to demonstrate that the methods used to obtain the original data involve sound scientific techniques and controls, and demonstrate insightful analysis.
- Junior: Grades 7 and 8
- Intermediate: Grades 9 and 10
- Senior: Grades 11 and 12
The grade category your project must register under is based on the grade recorded on Ministry Form 1701. Please ask your teacher if you are unsure. For a two-person project, your project must register in the grade category of the student in the higher grade.
Categorize your project into one of seven themed challenges below. These are used in the judging process.
- Discovery: Create new fundamental knowledge based on your curiosity by asking a question and using the techniques of scientific inquiry to develop an answer.
- Energy: Improve our use of current energy sources, enable the transition to alternative energy sources, or reduce our energy footprint.
- Environment: Reduce our impact on, improve our understanding, and ensure the quality of water, air, soil, and the diversity of living things.
- Health: Increase our understanding of the human body, or apply science and technology to improve health, control disease, or support an aging population.
- Information: Enhance communication and our use of information using digital and networking technologies, or applications of new media.
- Innovation: Combine scientific principles with your creativity to develop a new material, structure, device, or system to solve a problem or improve an existing solution.
- Resources: Develop better ways to use our natural resources that provide sustainable sources of food, products, or prosperity.
Conducting scientific research is a fun and rewarding learning experience, but it is also serious business! Whether it is a Science Fair project or research conducted in a research institute, there are some rules of academic integrity and ethics that all scientists must follow.
Specific examples of violations of academic integrity that will result in disqualification from the fair:
- Plagiarism – presenting the work of others as your own without acknowledging the source. In this case, “work” means scientific results, conceptual development of a topic and substantive formulation or reformulation of a problem. This includes work done by a family member or a mentor.
- Fabricating and/or falsifying data
- Fabricating and/or falsifying registration information
- Forging signatures
- Entering a project that is either derived from a previous project, or a continuation or revision of a previous project by the student (or by another), without documentation of the previous work.
- Ethics pre-approval is mandatory for all projects using animal and human participants. Projects must meet the ethics standards of the GVRSF to be displayed at the fair.
- Take the ethics quiz. For some projects, forms must be completed before you start your project. Complete the quiz to determine which form(s) your project will require.
- The project shall only be the work of one or two students from start to completion. Projects and work done by more than two students at any point in the project’s development are not permitted.
- A project worked on at any point by two students cannot register as a single person project.
- A participant may not present more than one project each year, and may not display or reuse an identical project from a previous Regional Science Fair.
- A project presented at any Regional Science Fair in the past may not be presented again unless there is a substantial expansion or extension of the previous investigation or design process. The project must only present work completed since the previous Regional Science Fair, though previous work may be referenced.
When Developing Your Project
The list below is a guideline to some of the things that you should consider when developing your science fair project. Note that it is only a guideline because your project type (Experiment, Innovation, or Study) may require different considerations. Refer to the judges’ evaluation rubric for a better idea of what judges will be looking for. You will notice that projects are evaluated on a variety of criteria including a combination of originality and the depth of analysis in the project. Error analysis is encouraged for all projects.
- Background: How the project came to be.
- Background Research: Information you collected in order to learn more about your topic.
- Purpose/Problem: Why the project was conducted and what you hoped to be achieved.
- Hypothesis: Proposition to be tested and anticipated results, if applicable.
- Procedure: A brief outline of the materials, variables, trials and methods used.
- Results or Observations: A summary of the results of the Experiment, Innovation, or Study.
- Conclusions: What can be concluded from the results and why is it important?
- Sources of Error: Systematic or random situations/factors that could have affected the results of your project.
- Earlier Work: If an earlier version of the project was submitted in a previous year, the finalist must highlight the changes and additional work done.
- Future work: Portions or variations of the project you would consider developing further.
- Real world application: How your project affects the real world. Can your project be implemented? Try to consider cost, feasibility, and scalability.
- Acknowledgements: Recognition of those individuals, institutions and businesses that provided significant assistance in the form of guidance, materials, financial support and/or facilities for this project. A list of references and the project’s bibliography should also be kept at the project table for consultation.
The log book is the rough record of your project. It is a journal containing your thoughts, actions you take, observations you see, rough data you take, and everything relating to your project. Start one at the beginning of your project and write into it any time you’re thinking or working on your project. Learn how to use a log book >
Make sure to bring your log book with you to display at the fair.
Each project is required to submit a short abstract upon registration. The abstract should be about 200-500 words and contain background information on the project, purpose and/or hypothesis, general procedures and results, and conclusion. If the final results and analysis are not completed at the moment of writing the abstract, expected results and experiments ongoing should be mentioned.
A written report is not required at the Regional Science Fair level. However, you can write one if you want. For example, the Canada-Wide Science Fair requires a 5-page report plus an additional 2 pages for references and appendices if needed.
A written report is a summary of your project and is an exercise in scientific writing, requiring you to select only information that is important and stating it in a concise way. Graphs, diagrams, and charts are useful but raw data and tables take up a lot of space. More information can be found on Youth Science Canada’s website >
Now that you’ve worked hard performing tests, collecting data, and analyzing your results, how do you tell others about it?
It is important to capture the attention of your audience so that they will want to read your display board, listen to what you have to say about your project and understand what you have learned.
At the fair, you will need to present your project to the public (friends, parents, teachers and visitors) and to the judges. It is important to make sure your display area is well-prepared, organized, and represents what you have done. Visitors looking at your backboard should be able to quickly understand what the project is about, what you did, and what you concluded.
Be creative. You can use pictures, models, and even demonstrations as long as they fit within your display area and do not conflict with the ethics and safety regulations. Your poster should capture the most important parts of your project, and contain enough information to tell someone walking by what you did.
Each project will get a specific spot allocated for their display. Please build your display to the specifications below. No additional room will be given so ensure all your material fits within the allotted space.
- Your project display must fit within the following dimensions: 1.1 m (44 in) wide x 0.8 m (30 in) deep x 3.5 m (137 in) high from the floor.
- Your project display must be free standing and stands up on its own. Three-fold displays are the easiest, but other formats are possible. Non-free standing displays will not be permitted.
There are specific display requirements for the national level Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF). Project displays created in alignment with the CWSF requirements are allowed at the GVSRF, but are not required.
For your safety and the safety of others attending the fair, all projects must also comply with the GVRSF safety requirements. Failure to follow these rules and requirements will result in disqualification at the fair.
The following items are NOT permitted and shall be removed from your display. Take pictures and bring photos of your project or experiment instead!
- Flames, candle, torch, or any heating device such as a hot plate
- Excessive packing material under the table
- Inappropriately grounded electrical plugs or sockets.
- Modifications of CSA approved electrical equipment
- Wet cell batteries such as lead acid
- Dry cell batteries such as alkaline, NiMH, or Lithium ion.
Electronic equipment created by participants are only permitted if they have:
- As low a voltage and electric current as possible
- A non-combustible enclosure
- An insulating grommet at the point where the electrical service enters the enclosure
- All exposed terminals must be covered
- Pilot light to indicate when device is powered
- Biological toxins
- Cell or tissue samples (including blood and blood products, except on sealed microscope slides)
- Plants or plant tissue
- Soil containing organic material
- Cultures – petri dishes containing media, ziplocs with spores, etc.
Images of Humans
- Sensational or offensive images of humans on project display
Animals and Animal Parts
- Live animals or micro-organisms
- Items naturally shed by an animal or parts properly prepared and preserved (e.g. quills, shed snake skin, feathers, tanned pelts and hides, antlers, hair samples, skeletons or skeletal parts)
Firearms, Hazardous Materials, and Equipment
- Firearms, ammunition, dangerous goods, or explosives
- Images of humans or animals injured by firearms or explosives
- Functional X-ray and radiation-producing equipment
Structural and Mechanical Safety
- Any structurally unsound backboard or display
- Sharp edges such as the corners of prisms, mirrors, glass, or metal plates that are not in a case
- Dangerous exposed moving parts such as belts, gears, pulleys, and blades
- Motors that do not contain safety shut-offs
- Pressurized vessels or compressed gas cylinders
- Moving exhibits (such as robots) that are using more than their allocated space
- Flammable, toxic or dangerous chemicals
- Prescription drugs or over the counter medications
- More than 1 L of liquid being displayed
- Radioactive sources and materials (e.g. smoke detector sources)
Any chemicals on display other than water or table salt are not recommended. Water, salt, and molasses can be used to simulate other materials. Write “simulated X” on the material. You may use food colouring and water to simulate chemicals if necessary.
If you have questions of what you can or cannot have at your display, please contact us.
Be Confident and Show Your Excitement
This is your work and you know it best!! The hard work of creating your project is already done. You’ve spent many hours working through your project. Presenting your project is just an opportunity for you to share what you did and what you learned with the judges and visitors. You’ve done great work and we want to hear all about it!
Be Organized in Your Explanations
- Ensure your presentation follows a logical order. Remember, although you’ve been working on your project for many hours, the judges and visitors are new to your work. Try to take your listener step by step through your project and your thinking so they can follow along easily.
- Some students start with an introduction of themselves and a description of what their project is about. You could consider discussing why you chose your specific project, what you are trying to investigate, and why it is important.
- If you’ve conducted an Experiment, walk the judges through each part of the scientific process e.g. what materials you used, what procedures you followed, how many trials you performed, what variables were involved. It’s important to not only discuss what you did, but also why you did it.
- Plan what you are going to present and practice. You’ll need to budget your time. Plan to present for 10 minutes and leave 5 minutes for questions.
- If you are working with a partner, decide in advance who will be saying what and when. Each student should talk for the same amount of time and both of you should be prepared to answer any of the judge’s questions.
- Practice your presentation in front of someone who doesn’t already know about your project. Try to take note of the questions they ask. If they are a bit confused you may want to adjust a couple of sections. Or, they may ask you questions you hadn’t thought of before. Incorporate what you learn in these practices into your final presentation.
- Practice your presentation several times until you feel comfortable.
- Try not to read any notes. If you need to refer to notes to keep you organized that’s ok, but try and just talk to the judge and explain what you’ve done rather than reading a script.
Have Fun and Enjoy Yourself
The more fun you have, the more fun the judges will have!
- Registration Process and Requirements
- Fair Schedule
- The Guide To Completing Your Science Fair Project (written by Clara Westwell-Roper and Churmy Fan)
- Science Fair Handbook (compiled and adapted by John and Jully Shim)
- Science Celebration (written by Len Reimer)
- Google Science Fair Teacher Resources – contains lesson plans for students ages 13 to 18
- SMARTS Guide to Science Fairs (written by Joshua Liu, Youth Science Canada)
- Policy 1.5.5 – Youth Science Canada policies on Academic Integrity
- Policy 1.5.1 – Youth Science Canada policies on Code of Conduct
- Policy 1.5.2 – Youth Science Canada policies on Discipline