Science Fair Project Planning
Science projects can be interesting and satisfying because you will be challenged to learn new things and, at the same time, accomplish a serious project on your own. However, science projects take a lot of time and intellectual effort. Anyone can be successful if they plan their project well.
Measuring time for science projects.
We can measure time on projects in terms of effort and duration. Effort is how much time you spend actually performing a task. Duration is the time elapsed from the start of the task to the end of the task.
For example, if you play a video game and it takes you 3 hours to complete one level then your effort is 3 hours. If you play the whole level without stopping then your effort is 3 hours and the duration is also 3 hours. If you can only play for 1 hour each day after school then you must play for 1 hour on 3 days in a row to complete the level. In this case your effort to complete the task is still 3 hours however, your duration is now about 2 days since 2 days passed from the time you started the level to the time you finished the level. If you play from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM each day for 3 days in a row your duration will actually be 49 hours.
Let's start by figuring out the effort required to complete your science fair project. At this time you may know very little about a science project so just make some guesses for now. If this is your very first project then you will have to guess even more. During your project you should come back to this sheet to make better guesses.
Print out the Project Planning Sheet #1 and follow the guide below to fill in the blanks and add up your time. You will need free Adobe Reader to open and print it. Get the latest Adobe Reader.
Guide for Project Planning Sheet #1
Look at the list of tasks on the Project Planning Sheet #1. In the empty spaces write in any other tasks you will need to complete. You can always add more later and use your own sheet.
Now think about each task that needs to be completed and estimate how long it will take you to do. Use your own experience and ask relatives or teachers to help you.
Here are some examples and the types of questions you should ask yourself about the tasks.....
Finding information on the internet:
Have you done other research on the internet? Was it for a smaller or bigger project? Use that experience to help you estimate the time you need for this project.
Getting books from the library:
How will you get to the library? Do they have what you need or do they have to order it from another library? How long will that take?
Shopping for materials for experiments or a model:
Did you make a list of what you need? What stores carry what you need? Do you have to wait a few days before someone can take you to the store?
Interviewing an expert:
Do you need an expert and know who that expert is? Do you have to schedule a time with them? Will you plan out an interview? Have you accounted for both the time to plan the interview and the time to conduct the interview?
Guide for Project Planning Sheet #2
How many hours do you have each week to devote to this project? If you are done with school each day at 3:00 PM and go to bed by 8:00 PM then you have 5 hours each night. However you need to subtract out recreation time, dinner time, regular homework time, etc...
Start by figuring out the available time you have each night.
A. What time do you get home from school?
B. What time do you go to bed?
C. What is the difference?
[B - A = C] This is the hours you have available each night.
Since there are 5 school nights each week your total available time is C times 5. Let's say you have 5 hours available each night then 5 hours times 5 nights is 25 hours each week.
But..... you most likely do other things between the time you get home from school and the time you go to bed so you have to account for that time to see how much time you really have available.
Here are some ideas ......
- Dinner for 1 hour each night times 5 nights is 5 hours each week.
- TV time for 1/2 hour each night times 5 nights is 2-1/2 hours each week.
- Regular homework for 1 hour each night times 5 nights is 5 hours each week
- After school sport on Tuesday for 2 hours each week. Remember that some events will also have travel time associated with them.
- Movie on Friday for 2 hours each week.
- Chores for 1/2 hour each night times 5 nights is 2-1/2 hours each week.
The total for these 6 items is 19 hours. 25 hours minus 19 hours leaves only 6 hours each week to work on your project. If you do all 60 hours only on school days it will take you 10 weeks to complete. That is about 2-1/2 months duration. However, you will most likely be able to work on it more hours on the weekends. If you have 4 hours each weekend then you will only need 6 weeks to complete a 60 hour project. That is about 1-1/2 months duration, still a long time.
Be sure to start early enough to insure your success. Giving yourself a few extra weeks just in case you run into a problem is a great idea.