Science Fair Ain’t What It Used To Be

Posted: December 11, 2006 in Uncategorized

I was helping my middle-school son fill out his application for the science fair yesterday, and I had to answer questions on what would be used in the project.  Specifically: 

  1. Humans (for anything, even if just for surveys)

    I don’t recall The Kinsey Reports starting as a science fair project, but I guess it could have!  Seriously, I guess they science fair people just want to make sure nobody’s pulling a Frankenstein at their show.  That would be a cool project, though, don’t you think?

  2. Non-human animals with backbones

    That would be for David Naughton’s well-known London werewolf experiment back in ’81.  Got the cool experiments banned for the rest of us forever!

  3. Living or dead tissue of any type, blood, or blood products

    Hey, you didn’t think they’d forget to screen for vampires, did you?

  4. Any drug or chemical that is monitored by the government

    But not over the counter amphetamines.  So you’re free to design your very own meth lab science fair project!  How cool is th-{KABOOM}!

  5. Any germs, bacteria, fungi, or other dangerous living thing

    “Aw, c’mon.  I just wanted to show the effects of mustard gas on a few select classmates!  What’s wrong with that?”

  6. DNA or recombinant DNA

    And over here, we’ve combined the DNA of a frog with the DNA extracted from the 70-million-year-old soft tissue from a dinosaur bone someone just dug up last week to create …. wait a minute, that didn’t end too well in Jurassic Park, did it?

  7. Chemicals (anything other than water)

    See, now they’re just being discriminatory.  How are all the druggies supposed to participate?

  8. Welders or lasers or 220 volt (or higher) power

    Okay, I can see why a klutzy teen with an arc welder or an argon laser might cause problems, but 220V??  How is the poor French exchange student supposed to demonstrate exactly what happens when you plug in your 110V electric razor while visiting her back home?

  9. Firearms/guns

    Considering the general ban on firearms in high schools post-Columbine (my elder son’s high school had to close down the firing range in the basement!), why do they even need this?  Oh, yeah, because some fruitcake would try to enter a project with crossbows or powder rifles.  Same principle as the “hot” warnings on coffee.  (Although I doubt someone who doesn’t realize hot coffee is hot will be entering a project in the science fair!)  Hmmm … I wonder if a trebuchet qualifies as a firearm?

  10. Anything radioactive

    Now they’re just being ridiculous.  Kim Jong Il doesn’t attend my son’s middle school.

  11. Anything that produces radiation

    What?  Like a light?  They do realize heat is a form of radiation, right?  And I guess that puts the kabosh on any outdoor experiments during daylight hours.  That silly sun up there keeps pumping out harmful UV rays.

  1. argonel says:

    I remember a lot of these from my science fair days. Is this the banned list or the list of topics that requires extra documentation. When I was doing the science fair thing those topics required extra documentation to ensure safety and reasonable care / ethical research practices. Beyond that it was your project and your choice of how to proceed. There were much stricter limits on what could be included in the display though.
    Also a recommendation from when I was competing. Submit a research paper as well as the project display. It’s very little additional work and there are specific prizes and competitions for papers separate from projects. Also there is much less competition for research papers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think that one and two are one the list because of the pig mummies from last year.

  3. katepaulk says:

    What’s a mad scientist to do?
    All these restrictions… how can a mad scientist truly demonstrate his, her or its creativity?

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