Real-world science fair projects are a great way for students to test their interest and aptitude for a career in STEM (science-technology-engineering-math). But they shouldn’t choose just any old topic. To make the most of the opportunity, try to focus on projects with real-world applications. This will give them hands-on experience directly related to a good-paying job field, like engineering.
With planning and hard work, the right science fair project might bump up a student’s chances for a scholarship or a trip to the ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) and Broadcast Masters competitions.
Don’t get me wrong — creating foaming volcanoes or diagramming the human circulatory system are fun and classic ideas for a science fair project. But unless your student plans to go to med school or major in geology, these typical projects won’t do much to advance his or her future career. Far more engineering jobs will be available in the 21st century.
Engineering science fair projects
Most science fair projects on the internet seem to focus on the basic sciences, like biology and chemistry. But considering the skills gap the country is now experiencing between the available job force and manufacturing industry requirements, I believe engineering-focused science fair projects centered around Industry 4.0, robotics, automation, and construction may be better choices, both for your student and for the health of tomorrow’s workforce.
In this post you’ll find seven real-world science fair projects gleaned from the Education.com website. They provide simple, but realistic, introductions to real-world careers in electronics, robotics & automation, and construction engineering.
For more help with choosing a real-world science fair topic, setting up your experiment, collecting and analyzing the data, and presenting your results, visit NASA’s video page on How to do a Science Fair Project.
Science fair projects about smart technology
Consider the hottest topic in industry today – Smart Manufacturing, or Industry 4.0, sometimes called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). Industry 4.0 is just one facet of the global push towards Smart Cities, Smart Homes, and Smart Agriculture.
All these concepts center on wireless connectivity between machines using cellular networks. So, for Smart Homes, this means your utilities, fridge, lights, burglar alarm, HVAC, and other systems would be connected through an app on your smartphone. From there you can track and control these systems to keep your home comfortable, while reducing water and energy use and increasing security.
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For Industry 4.0, companies are connecting the machines used in their manufacturing and power generation plants at different locations around the world. On top of that, they are creating “digital twins” of each machine, which are 3D animated computer models of the machines.
The idea is to collect real-time data from each machine and then use that data, along with artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision, and even virtual reality simulations, to:
- Design new products
- Predict when a machine will need maintenance BEFORE something goes wrong
- Optimize the output of the machines and harmonize them to work together
Robotics science fair projects
Another major topic in industry is robotics and automation. Automation means that machines are programmed to perform tasks without human help. Some robots are standalone, “service” robots, like the Roomba. Robotic arms in factories and warehouses pick and place items to be processed. The more human-friendly “collaborative” robots can improve human capacity and are safe to work around. Put together, these technologies allow some manufacturing plants to run “lights out,” without any human input for days.
Robots are boosting agriculture, both in planting and harvesting fields and in packaging food. With Smart Agriculture technology, farmers collect data in their fields with mobile apps applying artificial intelligence (AI) software to reduce fertilizer needs and optimize water use.
Need help sketching your experimental set-up in 3D for your real-world science fair presentation? Check out My Engineering Draw & Write Journal for Kids: 48 Fun Drawing and Writing Prompts to Learn about the Engineering Design Process.
Engineering science fair projects
Most science fair projects on the internet seem to focus on the basic sciences, like biology and chemistry. But in light of the skills gap we are now experiencing between the available job force and manufacturing industry requirements, I believe engineering-focused science fair projects centered around Industry 4.0, robotics, automation, and construction may be better choices for building up tomorrow’s workforce.
Here are 7 real-world science fair project ideas focused on solving problems in engineering:
1. Cell phone dead zones science fair project
In this projects, students learn how wireless networks work, find dead zones where wireless signals are lost, and determine ways to reduce these zones – important preparation for students who hope to work on Smart Homes, Smart Factories, Smart Cities, or Smart Agriculture.
2. Robot navigation science fair project
Robots are the future of manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction. This project teaches about different types of sensors that help robots navigate through a maze – just like a robot may need to navigate a warehouse or machine shop.
3. Smoke detector science fair project
Sensors of all kinds are important to smart technologies and robotics engineering. Sensors can detect motion, gases, light, heat, and other changes in the environment to allow robots to avoid collisions or Smart Homes to detect a fire, for example. This project compares the effectiveness of two types of sensors in a smoke detector.
4. Faraday cage science fair project
In our digital world, electricity is essential – as we quickly discover during a power outage. There is serious concern that an enemy could disrupt our power grid with a gigantic electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This project investigates a way to protect electrical devices and the power grid using a Faraday cage.
5 & 6. EMFs science fair projects
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an electronic technology used in credit cards, ID Cards, and theft prevention systems, as well as in manufacturing, warehousing and shipping products. The first project measures the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) given off by various RFID transmitters, which may have harmful effects on people. The second project looks directly at how EMFs can affect us physically.
7. Rust prevention science fair project
Metals rust, and that can be a big problem when it comes to bridges, buildings, cars, and any object exposed to air and water. This project examines the process of oxidation (not just rust) that ultimately breaks down every physical object, and looks at ways to prevent that from happening.
For more engineering science fair project ideas, follow the STEM-Inspirations Science Fair Projects board on Pinterest.
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