The science fair experience is part process, part product. Some would argue that the process is more important than the product—that it is in the hands-on experimentation, engineering, and trial and error that the most valuable learning takes place. But both are valuable components of the overall learning experience, and both matter during final judging.
At the end of the day, the display board is the ultimate product. It tells the story of the student’s investigation or invention and is their one chance to sell it to the world (well, at least to teachers and judges). It chronicles their hard work, documents real data, and breaks down complex scientific concepts into basics that anyone who visits their display at the fair can understand. It is something for students to be proud of and keep forever.
Although the presentation comes at the end of the 6-week timeline, it should not be an afterthought. Students should keep it in mind as they document key steps along the way—with photographs, sketches and handwritten notes. That way, when it comes time to post things on their display board, they’ll have more than enough to choose from. The value of the presentation should not be underestimated. After weeks of hard work, it all comes down to a few minutes—that’s how long a student has to captivate each group of visitors at their booth. And remember this: The display is the first and only thing the judges see. First impressions matter!