Science fairs can sound like torture. To many students, it is the bane of their existence. Yet science fairs are so useful and helpful for learning all kinds of life skills — the kind you don’t get to learn in school. Science fairs force students to go above and beyond what is typically required of them in school projects. It teaches you interpersonal skills like how to present research or how to advocate for your own ideas in a research setting. These are skills that I and millions of other students have acquired through our experience with science fairs.
Because of the nature of science fairs, the hardest and most important part of the process is presenting the research to judges who may or may not understand the material in the project. Explaining intense research to qualified scientists can be incredibly intimidating. However, presenting and breaking down complex information is a critically important skill for students to learn, yet is typically not taught directly in school. Being able to talk to complete strangers and articulate a viewpoint is an incredibly valuable skill that science fairs help instill in students.
Another crucial piece of science fairs is the actual research process often conducted in a lab. Thinking scientifically is simple to imagine in school. Yet it takes on a much different meaning when you are initiating the project from start to finish. The experience of devising an experiment, evaluating results and coming up with a conclusion is not something that all students get. For me, getting the chance to work in a research setting with competent and experienced researchers made the process of taking on a science fair project much easier. I learned a lot not just about solar cells, but also about the different processes used to create different sources of energy. Even though my research focused on dye-sensitized solar cells, I gained a great appreciation for the entire energy market and for the scope of the challenges facing solar energy to become viable. The ability to participate in research, connect with experienced researchers and gain an appreciation for science in the context of the bigger picture are all benefits from participating in science fairs that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere.
Finally, the scientific knowledge gained through participating is another outstanding benefit of science fairs. The research process and the ability to explain the research are both more important in science fairs, but the actual knowledge acquired during the scientific process is useful as well. Between reading papers written about past research and acquiring knowledge through experimentation, learning about the field you are experimenting in can give you a good idea about what you want to consider as a career. It can give you an indication as to what kind of degree you want to pursue in higher education. In a worst-case scenario, it can also tell you what professions you want to avoid, which is just as valuable. This knowledge not only provides a great advantage in question-and-answer sessions during science fairs, it can help you through difficult classes you may take in high school.
In summary, a science fair is a great investment of time and energy that produces amazing rewards. It can open doors to career opportunities, improve speaking skills and increase scientific knowledge. The advantages of participating in science fairs are limited only by the amount of work you put into it. I have had a great experience with science fairs throughout my time in high school, and hopefully, you can have great experiences as well.