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Top 10 Science Fair Projects
Meet the winner plus the top nine finalists from our Virtual Science Fair contest—and read about the genius science experiments these kids came up with! Plus: Get more ideas for at-home experiments, brain-boosting games and more
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Meet the Winner! Alec Mullet, 10, Denton, TX
“My son Alec wanted to find out if there was a particular kind of soda that might be less harmful to teeth. He did some background research on the internet, and hypothesized, based on the research, that clear sodas are worse than dark sodas.
“He designed an experiment that used calcium vitamin tablets to simulate teeth. He soaked the tablets in different types of soda overnight, and compared the weight of the calcium tablets before and after exposure to the soda, using plain water as a control.
“He found that his hypothesis was incorrect, and that the dark, diet soda was worst for teeth. He found that root beer is the least harmful to teeth, and that as expected, water has no effect on teeth. He also discovered a connection between the acidity of the soda and its effect on teeth.”
Alyssa Moore, 11, Menifee, CA
“Alyssa’s experiment was ‘How Does Smell Affect Taste?’ She blindfolded participants and had them wear nose plugs. She then took four pairs of foods that were similar in texture or category and then had them taste the foods with their noses plugged. Then after they had tasted them all, they took off the nose plugs and re-tasted all of the foods.
“She learned that smell plays a huge part of how we taste and when our noses are stuffed up, we cannot taste our foods very well. She did the entire experiment herself, as well as her research.”
Brendan Meade, 10, Sahuarita, AZ
“After the tsunami devastated Japan last spring, Brendan saw the many thousands of people living in tents without electricity. Since we live in southern Arizona, and are surrounded by sun most days of the year, he wondered if it would be possible to make tents for people to live in after disasters out of fabric that could generate electricity and be waterproof at the same time.
“Using blueberry juice, white paint, iodine, vinegar, touch screen plastic (for example the plastic used on the screens of computer games or ATM machines) and fabric from a cleanroom smock [like the coat a doctor wears], Brendan did just that! These are the ingredients for a solar cell that Brendan designed, planned and actually built.
“After Brendan created the circuit he measured the amount of electricity it generated. The three cells he created averaged 51mV of electricity for a one-inch sample. Now he just needs to make enough solar fabric to build a tent!”
Ella Hardy, 10, Oshkosh, WI
“Ella built a worm-composting house, which she named ‘The Worm Rocket’. To build the worm rocket, I helped Ella cut the two soda bottles. We cut bottle ‘A/B’ in half and we cut the top third off of bottle ‘C’, discarding the top section.
“Ella placed bottle ‘C’ into the bottle section ‘B’ base (to catch any water drainage) and topped it with bottle section ‘A’ as the lid to the rocket. Ella then measured and cut a paper grocery bag to loosely wrap around the rocket, which allows air in while keeping light out. Every other day Ella added some veggie scraps to feed the worms and, when necessary, she sprayed them with water to keep the worms moist.
“Ella learned that worms are important in breaking down old plants into new soil. Also, worm tunnels allow air and water into the earth, which help plant roots grow. The worms were very busy making tunnels (which we could watch through the clear plastic bottle), making dirt, and even making baby worms. Worm composting is a fun and easy way to reuse food waste, reduce waste in our landfills, and promotes a healthier planet by providing rich soil for our gardens.”
Harper Mullet, 6, Denton, TX
“Harper is very concerned about the environment, especially air and water quality. She wanted to experiment and find out where air is the dirtiest. She hypothesized that it would be dirtiest where there was the greatest number of cars.
“She decided the best way to measure air quality would be to capture pollution in different locations and compare the results. To capture pollution, she spread equal amounts of Vaseline on cards and hung up the cards in several different locations (a busy street, a drive-thru window, the backyard, and inside the house). She left the cards in place for several days, then collected them and examined them with a magnifier.
“Harper discovered that her hypothesis was correct: pollution was greatest where there are the most cars, at a drive-thru window, and the next highest pollution level was on a busy street.”
Ketterra Johnson, 7, Kent, WA
“For her third grade science fair, Ketterra wanted to experiment with paper chromatography—placing an ink mark on paper and using a solvent to separate out the color molecules.
“Ketterra found that black ink was made of red, yellow, and blue colors—primary colors. She also found some orange (red and yellow), green (yellow and blue) and purple (red and blue). These other colors were made from the primary colors. Paper chromatography is a great experiment for a fun rainy day project or for a more formal science fair project.”
Luke Hathaway, 12, Bridgeport, WV
“My son Luke did an experiment to find out how drinking soda and tea can discolor the enamel on your teeth. We felt his experiment was important because so many children are drinking tea and soft drinks nowadays.
“The first thing my son did was hard boil three eggs and let them cool. He then placed one egg in a jar filled with tea, and one filled with soda and one was kept clean as a control. He soaked the eggs for eight hours and then tried to remove the discoloration on the eggshells with toothpaste. The results were that he was able to remove some of the discoloration with toothpaste and brushing, but not all of it. This science experiment was a great learning experience for my son and his friends!”
Spencer Pyne, 10, Lehighton, PA
“Spencer designed and carried out this experiment independently. He wanted to see if earthworms had any adaptations that explained why they live in the soil.
"His hypothesis was: ‘If I put an earthworm in a light environment and then cover half of the container with black paper, then the earthworm will crawl to the black side of the container.’
“Spencer observed that the earthworm stayed in place when the container was completely lit and there was no place dark. When he put the paper over the half of the container, the earthworm moved over to the darker side of the container so that it could stay moist.”
Shelly Weinberg, 8, New York, NY
“Shelly’s experiment illustrated how materials can be separated by their relative weight. This is especially important for recycling.
“The experiment involves filling up a glass column with salt solution, where the bottom part is highly concentrated and is gradually diluted up to the top, which consists of pure water.
“Shelly dipped objects made of different materials in the column, and observed their relative height in the column; the lower the object sank, the higher its relative weight. This is a simple and accurate way to sort materials for recycling according to their relative weight.”
Sophia Kendall, 7, Brooklyn, NY
“Sophia wanted to know why pennies turn black, and if there is anything that will make them shiny again. We learned at the library that the black is copper oxide, and that certain acid solutions can dissolve the tarnish. She decided to test some household substances to see if they would work.
“The biggest surprise was the cider, which had the most marked effect. Neither of us had ranked the cider very high in our predictions. Sophia had thought that the salt and plain water would work best, since they are good at washing off dirt, but concluded that the tarnish couldn't really wash off, but had to be melted in the acid liquids.”