Bad science fair projects

This gallery of science fair projects is partly funny, partly cringe-worthy, and partly petty and annoying. Some of the projects are weird, but some of the entries are simply mocking the appearance of the kids … and as a former high school nerd myself, I rather resent that.

But yeah, “Crystal Meth: Friend or Foe” is amusing — I just wish we know something about their experimental protocol.


  1. Patrick says

    I recognize a bunch of those from one or two articles at Something Awful as part of their usually great Fashion SWAT column. (Note: potentially excessively mean-spirited, but also hilarious.)

  2. Vernon says

    The girl in “The Ideal Pancreas” looks as though she’s feeling resigned to be in an awful position. Look how her shoulders are slumped and her arms just dangle there.

  3. says

    What on Earth is the “Moon Babies” one about? And what is with that guys sweater?

    Posted by: CC

    I don’t know, but I think I need that sweater. It’s got a certain sort of awesome to it, don’t you think?

  4. October Mermaid says

    I was always pretty lazy with science fair projects (we had classes that would do “mini fairs” that were mandatory), so I would find ways to have fun without really doing anything.

    For example, one project involved the mixing of perfumes and bath salts in various ways, then determining if each mixture is toxic and kills me or miraculous and brings a dead bug back to life.

    Well, nothing killed me or brought the bug back to life, but since I don’t know what killed the bug in the first place, the whole experiment was kind of flawed.

  5. Owlmirror says

    What on Earth is the “Moon Babies” one about?

    As a wild guess, maybe it’s an attempt to see if there is a correlation between the phase of the moon and birth rates.

    I often think to myself that if science papers used fewer huge godawful polysyllabic technical terms with their Latin and Greek roots, science would be easier to understand.

    Then I see things like this, and I realize that it’s possible to go way, way too far in the other direction… and still not be comprehensible.

  6. says


    Boston area folks. If you haven’t done so already, please stop over here and provide feedback.

    We’re attempting to organize a Boston-area Pharyngulite dinner (and I’ve done the idiot thing and taken on organizing responsibilities).

    More people; more calamari! Or whatever folks decide to eat…..


  7. says

    I only had one “science fair” in my entire stay in grade school back in 5th grade. My entire class was instructed to make baking soda/vinegar volcanoes.

  8. me2i81 says

    Here is the original (classic?) Ideal Pancreas. What’s odd, though, is that organizers put up these galleries of “the kids and their posters” such that you can’t read the posters, so everyone’s reduced to making comments about the kids’ looks.

  9. speedwell says

    I was a full-on music student in my senior year of high school, with five out of seven periods devoted to choirs, piano, and the music library. I actually made great grades in science, but didn’t have time for the science fair. My teacher offered me a choice. I could either research and write a double handful of biographies of science luminaries, or I could bite the bullet and, in her words, “propose an experiment suitable for presentation at science fair.” Neither option, if done competently, allowed me time for my “music major” rehearsals and concerts. I was absolutely deadlocked. Mom pointed out that the teacher didn’t, in point of fact, say I had to GO to the science fair or even do the experiment. Plus, she added, I could refurbish the science knowledge I already had instead of starting a whole new research project. So my proposal started out by suggesting that I would study ten narcoleptics and ten control subjects for evidence of restlessness during sleep. My teacher only docked me one letter grade for being too damn clever. :)

  10. Bacopa says

    I wanna know where the DT guy got a 40 of PBR! Kroger and some Valero locations sell the Pabst 6pack tallboys. HEB has the 12pack twelvies, but I’d really like the 40oz PBR as a warmup for a 40 of Olde English 800. Yall got 40oz PBRs up north? Sweeeeet.

  11. Justin H. says

    MAJeff (#1): “Well, do you want amazing sex for 36 hours or rotting teeth?”

    This does not sound like a difficult dilemma to me.

  12. says

    My junior year of high school, I went to some effort to arrange to go out to the University of Alabama-Birmingham on several afternoons to work with a chemist. My science fair project involved spectography, and he was kind enough to let me use some instrumentation that they had.

    As a result, I had some very nice spectrographs printed out on that special graph paper, and my dad built a three-panel wooden stand with hinges and a base to mount them on. I had it set up on the living room floor ready to take to school the morning of the science fair.

    I got up that morning to find the dog had peed all over it! Apparently, the vertical stand was tall enough that he considered it close enough to a hydrant or tree for his purposes.

    I had not put all that work into it just to forfeit the science fair, so I dried it off with a towel and took it in anyway. In restrospect, it’s not too surprising it didn’t win anything–I doubt any of the judges even got close enough to read it.

  13. wildcardjack says

    I’m surprised we haven’t started seeing 9/11 Truth displays in Science Fairs.

    Also, if I ever have to face the daunting task of “Build a volcanon” again, I think I could whip up something that involves real lava.

  14. Don't Panic says

    Ah, science fairs. One of my great disillusionments of my youth. I remember my 5th grade project. I came up with the idea and protocol on my own: my parents were fond of saying that we shouldn’t drink soda (it was much rarer in those days) because the carbonic acid would eat away our teeth. So I convinced my dentist to give me some teeth he’d extracted from patients — ya, like that would happen these days — and I weighed them and put them to sit in various fluids such as water, soda, milk, etc. And then I plotted weight vs. time. In the end it was a complete wash because the losses, if there were any, were less than the precision (0.5g) of the scale. But I wrote it all up and drew a poster of a cross section of a tooth to explain that there was hard enamel and the roots and all. And what questions did I get from judges: Are you going to be a dentist? Ah, no. [Being honest with judges is not a good strategy was another lesson I kept having to relearn — the naivety of the nerdom]

    The guy who won? He was more outgoing than shy little me. And he freaking copied his whole project from the “Things of Science” kit that came in the mail every month. Nothing original, nothing of his own. No, just some silicate power used for water proofing and little beads of water. And that’s when I should have learned that originality and effort will often get beaten out by a slick presentation (of something copied without attribution) and an outgoing personality.

    And yet, I must not be too bright because I keep having to learn that same lesson. I see again and again marginal individuals who put on a good show and, ah, borrow heavily from others who do the real work, get the accolades and promotion. Ah, science why do I love thee so.

  15. pksp says

    That girls with the “Who’s your Daddy #2” is kind of cute. Strange project for a girl who looks like that. :)

  16. Amazona farinosa farinosa says

    I won 1st in my jr. high fair, but it was more demonstrative than experimental. My subject was crystals. I grew a really nice sized alum crystal (about 15cm on edge) and did a hack job of showing why it was octahedral (my grasp of salts other than NaCl was rather tenuous). But the real kicker was my demonstration of crystals forming from gas. They actually let me melt naphthalene mothballs in a beaker with an alcohol lamp, boil the liquid and condense the fine crystals on a watch glass. It stunk up the entire auditorium! I used supplies from my big brother’s Mr. Wizard chemistry set. No way that would be permitted these days!

  17. says

    I am extremely frustrated that the results of the dreadfully important “Plants and Pop” experiment have not been published to the appropriate journal as yet. I have several species of flora awaiting the results with caffeinated breath.

  18. dave says

    “Roses are red violets are blue some say creation how about you?”

    Was this girl advocating intelligent design?

    “Power from the throne”

    Looks like he was trying to market a product.

  19. Sigmund says

    The ‘Juicy Beans’ project for some reason reminds me of that famous ‘Chicken’ powerpoint presentation.

  20. October Mermaid says

    #22 “I am extremely frustrated that the results of the dreadfully important “Plants and Pop” experiment have not been published to the appropriate journal as yet. I have several species of flora awaiting the results with caffeinated breath.”

    No respectable science journal would ever publish such nonsense! It would have to be changed to “Plants and Soda.”

    Soda is the proper word! I will battle anyone who says differently! >:- <---- mean face

  21. Sigmund says

    “No respectable science journal would ever publish such nonsense! It would have to be changed to “Plants and Soda.”
    You were saying?
    Warda M, and Han J. The missing link between Plants and Pop.
    Proteomics. 2008 Jan 23; [Epub ahead of print]

  22. October Mermaid says

    Well, I’ll admit, I’ve never battled a respectable science journal before, but I warned them! You saw me warn them!

  23. False Prophet says

    I’m kind of disappointed in the Web 2.0 generation. They have all these inexpensive graphic editing tools at their disposal, and their projects look considerably less attractive than the ones my classmates and I produced 20 years ago.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised–laziness also seems to be prevalent among their cohort as well.

  24. Holydust says

    Silly puberty-mangled looks aside, I hope someone in each of these schools had a “Posture and You” exhibit, because these kids sorely need it.

    I don’t know if it’s the ill effects from lugging around 7 or 8 heavy textbooks in a backpack all day, but I recall having a very popular, bitchy girl in my dance team yell at me when she saw me slumping like that. She would literally march over, grab my shoulders, and straighten me up. At the time I was embarassed, but I realized after she started praising me for remembering and righting myself in her presence that she really was just trying to help me be less of a loser. By the end of the year my posture was pretty much perfect, and I maintain it still today.

    So, Gretchen, thanks for that, even if you had to embarrass me to do it.

    (She’s stuck in smalltown Texas with about 4.5 kids and no future last I heard, but that’s the norm for popular girls where I come from. I still appreciate it.)


  25. Carlie says

    Not thrilled that the kids are shown with the displays. We want to help them understand science better, not ridicule them, and it’s very hard to tell the difference between criticism of a project and criticism of a person when you’re 13. Especially when the person and project are displayed together.
    [/wet blanket]

  26. negentropyeater says

    Delirium Tremens : was that Mel Gibson’s photograph ?

    Fat Man to Mars looks pretty neat. But why fat ?

    Does exercising effect ? Are writing skills part of the Science class ?

    Roses are red, Violets are blue, (So)me say Creation, how about you ? That’s an unfortunate position of the head, I almost thougt she was definitely a creationist. Or was it God’s will at work ?

    Global warming… yeah right ! Bet you the parents own a few SUVs.

  27. True Bob says

    My guess is that ‘Fat Man’ is a model rocket name. Fat Boy sure is, but it is relatively short. Of course, maybe it’s a plan to nuke Mars (after which I for one will welcome our Irradiated Martian Overlords).

  28. Larry says

    #15: My dog peed all over my science fair exhibit.

    Yeah, I used that one too. I still got an incomplete.

  29. maxi says

    Haha! is great! It’s good to know that kids are taking the scientific method seriously. Also, I learnt a lot about making vodka jelly.

    We didn’t have science fairs in England. I feel left out…

  30. Kamikaze189 says

    I think it was 4th grade that my school was forced to do science fair projects. As a whole they were pretty horrible. The one that won, if I recall, had something to do with food conducting electricity.

    My partner and I made the mistake of putting unneeded effort into our project. We surveyed our grade and maybe a few others about something. We spent two or three afternoons just entering numbers into an excel spreadsheet so we could make a graph.

    Then, in sixth or seventh grade, we were supposed to do the science fair again. But given the horror that the last one was and the fact it was not very important point-wise, I had decided to let the whole thing quietly slip by. However, we again had partners. And my partner’s mom, somehow, found out the night before that the science fair projects were due the next day. It involved a slingshot and water balloons. Something about distance.

    Really, I don’t know that much positive sciencey stuff comes out of science fair projects. At the same time, I think it’s challenging enough (you have to do a lot in a short amount of time, usually the night before) that it teaches you how to half-ass at extreme speed — clearly a life skill that nobody should be cheated out of.

  31. MartinM says

    There’s a link in the comments to this creationist “science” fair, where 2nd place at middle-school level was taken by Women Were Designed For Homemaking.

    Fortunately, that one’s a parody.

  32. maxi says

    MartinM: Phew. I checked out the link and thought it had to be a parody. Nothing could be that funny and that serious! Especially with titles like ‘Thermodynamics of Hellfire’.

  33. Clare says

    Okay, so there are lots of goofy titles. And some of the posters look so chaotic even from a distance that it seems a safe bet they were done in 10 minutes flat the night before the fair. But there’s no way of telling what some of those kids did — did they ask interesting questions, what kinds of experiments did they do — because you can’t read the posters, and the children themselves seem to be as much figures of fun as the posters themselves. (I really feel for the more obviously nerdy ones. It’s bad enough that they get laughed at by other kids at school; to get laughed at by other nerds, and online as well, seems particularly sad to me). Perhaps a good follow-up (or a substitute) might be photographs of just the poster. The laughs would still be there (pointless projects; asinine questions; wacky research design; anything to do with creationism) but without the gratuitous cruelty.

  34. Holydust says

    @ #41: I just cried a little.

    Patricia Lewis (grade 8) did an experiment to see if life can evolve from non-life. Patricia placed all the non-living ingredients of life – carbon (a charcoal briquet), purified water, and assorted minerals (a multi-vitamin) – into a sealed glass jar. The jar was left undisturbed, being exposed only to sunlight, for three weeks. (Patricia also prayed to God not to do anything miraculous during the course of the experiment, so as not to disqualify the findings.) No life evolved. This shows that life cannot come from non-life through natural processes.

    Three weeks. Um, yeah — no.

    I feel like putting a hole in my wall right now. There’s nothing that can be said about that page that any intelligent person reading it isn’t screaming inside his or her head already.

  35. stogoe says


    Yeah, sure, whatever you say, Grandpa. Why don’t we get off your lawn and pull up our damn pants while we’re at it.

    Actually, I’ve got a better idea: Why don’t you go put on your Depends and paste up your dentures and I’ll make you a nice warm cup of Shut the Hell Up.


  36. Leon says

    “Crystal Meth: Friend or Foe”

    Hey Dembski, whaddaya say? Should we teach the controversy on this too, or…are some “controversies” not, in fact, valid?

  37. Lyle G says

    The Creation ‘science’ fair brought on nausea. It looks like a parody but I don’t think it is. But how could you parody something like that?
    At a science fair I attended decades ago, the wining project’s equipment was two tennis balls – one normal, one weighted. The idea was to test the premise of an Issac Asimov mystery in which it was proven that a suspect had been off Earth recently, by his tossing an object with too little force. The project won because it was well designed to prove or disprove a point. There were more spectacular projects but they didn’t really prove any particular point. One of the judges was a REAL scientist.

  38. Lyle G says

    Don’t know if any one will read this, BUT… I followed some links from the creationist ‘science’ fair until my eyes began to cross and my sanity began to slip away. Consider this. “… my book, ‘From Deluge to Dort: How Infralapsarianism Doomed the Dinosaur'” Don’t THINK it is satire, but so mad that satire, being more absurd, would be impossible. I looked up infra…ect; it is some Calvinist quibble about predestination. These beings live in the Q continuum or something different from the reality we know.