Today they announced that my science fair project had won the grand prize in the school fair. That’s two years in a row for me winning the school’s grand prize. (I placed 1st in 4th grade, but there wasn’t a grand prize that year.) I started working on this project back in November after I got in trouble (just a little) for falling asleep listening to my iPod.
My grandmother said that sleeping with electronics nearby was dangerous. She saw an article that said some students in Denmark had done a science fair project where they tested to see if plant growth was affected by Wi-Fi. In their experiment, seeds planted near a commercial Wi-Fi router didn’t grow at all. Scientists who saw their project said that their experiment meant that Wi-Fi could be dangerous to people, too, but they are still testing that.
I decided to test it for myself. I couldn’t test it on people or animals, but I could test it on plants. Commercial Wi-Fi routers like the one the kids in Denmark used are a lot more powerful than the ones most people have at home, so I thought that the home Wi-Fi routers wouldn’t hurt plants. My grandma said that if I could prove that Wi-Fi didn’t hurt plants, then I could keep listening to my iPod at night, so I really wanted the test to show that Wi-Fi did not hurt plants. Too bad for me! The experiment showed that Wi-Fi does affect plants.
At first, the plants closest to the Wi-Fi router seemed to grow faster than the ones farther away. But by the end of the 10-day experiment, the plants shielded from Wi-Fi (in a steel can, or by being planted farther away from the Wi-Fi) were taller and stronger than the ones that were exposed to Wi-Fi. I wound up with so much data, and so many data tables that most of them wouldn’t fit onto the display boards for my project. I had to have two project report binders plus my lab notebook, too.
I spent over 100 hours working on my project, including two whole days during my Christmas break. The hardest part was figuring out what the results really meant. I wound up with 480 measurements (48 samples X 10 days of observation), 24 charts and graphs, and a 30-page report, plus about a dozen drawings, and over 120 photographs. Figuring out what was important, and what the data meant, wasn’t easy. I think I rewrote my analysis and conclusions section 10 times before I got something that I knew was correct, and explained what really happened.
As usual, a lot of things went wrong during the project. My dog knocked over some of my samples, some of my plants didn’t grow because I didn’t account for all the variables, and an ice storm at the beginning of my project slowed things down. But that’s just part of the process. At least it is for me, because my projects never seem to go the way I think they will when I start them.
One of the kids at school asked me why I did so much work. He said he got a good grade with half the work I did. (I think it was more like a tenth of the work I did — I saw his project. But I didn’t say that.) I think he thought my family made me do it. They didn’t. I did the work because I was interested in the answer, and I do like winning. I didn’t like spending part of Christmas break working on it, even though my best friend was here when I was doing it and that made it more fun because I could talk to him about it and he helped me with taking photos and stuff. And I sure didn’t like doing all the math to figure out the average height of plants.
But the reason I won, I think, is that I worked really hard. If somebody else had worked as many hours on their project as I did, then I wouldn’t have won. After the North Dallas Regional Science Fair next month, I’ll post photos of my project display, and a copy of my report. (You can’t do it before then, in case one of the judges happens to see it. Even though the project is on display at school now, with my name on it, you’re not supposed to post “identifiable” pictures of the project until after regionals.)
If you are a parent who wants to help your kid with a science fair project, my grandpa is a retired science teacher, and he wrote this guide for parents. You can download it by clicking on this link. How to Help Your Child Win a Science Fair by Fred Holland
One thing about living with a retired science teacher is that you have to do all of the work on a science fair project yourself. My grandparents will answer questions, but they won’t do any of the work for me. A lot of kids seem to get their parents to do a lot of the work for them. Last year at regionals, I watched one girl texting while her mom set up her project for her. She won a prize, too. That doesn’t really seem fair, does it?
I don’t really mind doing all the work myself. Science fair is fun! But it is hard work.