Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Science of Science Fairs

Evan completed his first science fair project this year.  I guess he had the opportunity last year, but didn't want to participate.  This year he did, so we started brainstorming ideas with him as soon as we found out about it.  Steve suggested an experiment on the evaporation rates of different liquids.  A friend had told me about her daughter's on which type of cup keeps hot chocolate warmer and I suggested that one.  Evan decided to go with the evaporation, so I started making plans to carry it out.  We tried to perform the experiment the weekend before it was due and the results were the following:
  1. The method I selected (and discussed with Steve) was not a good one for this experiment.
  2. We needed more time to complete the project.

So, we went with Plan B (a.k.a. "Keeping Hot Chocolate Warm").  After church on Sunday I picked up a digital candy thermometer.  When I got home I made a new caramel hot chocolate recipe, and we proceeded to experiment.  It took Evan, Steve, and me to keep the experiment going.  The first time we tried to measure the temps every minute, but that was pretty hard.  I basically was measuring the entire minute.  The second time (since my husband is an engineer we had to do two trials) we measured every 2 minutes.  We only kept the every two minutes measurements from the first trial, too.

 Guess which cup kept the hot chocolate warmer

Evan had worked on the wording of the purpose, hypothesis, etc. with me the day before (because I had a feeling we would be using plan B and wanted to be ready).  After the experiment it was time to analyze the data.  Steve kind of took over that part, with me throwing in things every now and then.  Evan then came to me to write the results section.  This is where the whining started.  I was about to lose it.  I wanted to finish so that we could relax and watch the playoffs.  He apparently wanted to do that, too, but without finishing the project first.  Steve took over for a while, and we were able to finish the project.  Phew!  Then Steve took over the formatting of the document into slides for printing.  I wanted to rearrange part of it and it took me a while to figure out how to get it to do what I wanted.  We have new "stuff" on our computer (Windows 7 and different Office programs) and while I like some of them, I know how to use the old stuff better.  And I haven't used PowerPoint in a long time anyway.  But ... it got done in time to get printed and put on the board way before bedtime!

And we did enjoy some caramel hot chocolate in the "winning" cup.
Surprised?  We were (except that this was my friend's result, too.)

The first thing Evan told me when I picked him from school the next day was that he won at the science fair!  It was hard to figure out what he won, but it was an honorable mention!  I think that they judged all of the kinder-3rd graders together and had a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place winner and then some honorable mentions.  He was excited and so were we!  I think he learned some stuff, too.  I wasn't sure he would want to do one next year after all of the "torture" of working on the results section, but I think that the joy of winning may have replaced the pain in his memories. 


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