Your project display is a visual representation of all the work that you have done. It should consist of a backboard and anything else that supports your project, such as models, collections, exhibits or examples, photographs, surveys, and the like.
Your display must tell the story of the project in such a way that it attracts and holds the interest of the viewers. It has to be thorough, but not too crowded, so keep it simple, well-organized, attractive, and most of all informative. Your teacher can advise you about materials that cannot be displayed as well as those that are required.
The size and shape allowed for the display backboard can vary, so you will have to check the rules for your science fair. Most displays are allowed to be as large as 48 inches (122 cm) wide, 30 inches (76 cm) deep, and 108 inches (274 cm) high (including the table it stands on). Of course your display may be smaller than this. A three-sided backboard is usually the best way to display your work. Some office supply stores and most scientific supply companies sell inexpensive pre-made backboards. See links below for online information about project backboards.
Backboards generally come in two colors, black and white. To change the color, you could paint or cover the backboard. For items placed on the backboard, select colors that stand out but don’t distract the viewer from the material being presented. Be creative, but remember that if everything is in fluorescent colors, the bright colors will be what viewers remember instead of your work.
The title and other headings should be neat and large enough to be read at a distance of about 3 feet (1 m). A short title is often eye catching. For the title and headings, self-stick letters, of various sizes and colors, can be purchased at office supply stores and stuck to the backboard. You can cut your own letters out of construction paper or stencil letters directly onto the backboard. You can also use a word processor to print the title and other headings.
Some teachers have rules about the position of the information on the backboard. If your teacher doesn’t, just put the project title at the top of the center panel, and organize the remaining material in some logical order neatly on the rest of the board. Typical headings used are: Problem, Hypothesis, Procedure (materials and step-by-step instructions for your project experiment) Data (tables and graphs), Results (Short summary of data.), and Conclusion. The heading “Next Time,” though not always required, would follow the conclusion and contain a brief description of plans for future development of the project. This information could be included in the conclusion rather than under a separate heading.
Typed material can be placed on a colored backing, such as construction paper. Leave a border of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.63 to 1.25 cm) around the edges of each piece of typed material. Use a paper cutter to cut papers so that the edges will be straight.
You want a display that the judges will remember positively. So before you glue everything down, lay the board on a flat surface and arrange the materials a few different ways. This will help you decide on the most suitable and attractive presentation.
- Make sure the display represents the current year’s work only.
- The title should be one that attracts the interest of a casual observer. Not only should the title itself be interesting, but it should stand out visually.
- Organization is a very important part of designing a display. You want a logical order so that observers (especially judges) can easily follow the development of your project from start to finish. Before you actually stick anything to the board, make a diagram of where each part will be placed.
- One way to arrange the letters on the backboard is to first lay the letters out on the board without attaching them. Then, use a yardstick (meter stick) and pencil to draw a straight, light guideline where the bottom of each letter should line up. This will help you keep the lettering straight. Before adhering everything, you may wish to seek the opinion of other students, teachers, or family members.
- If you need electricity for your project, be sure the wiring meets all safety standards.
- Bring an emergency kit to the science fair that includes anything that you think you might need to make last minute repairs to the display, such as extra letters, glue, tape, construction paper the color of the backboard, stapler, scissors, pencils, pens, touch-up paint, markers, and so forth.
- If allowed, before standing your backboard on the display table, cover the table with a colored cloth. Choose a color that matches the color scheme of the backboard. This will help to separate your project from other projects displayed on either side.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do adhere to the size limitations and safety rules set by the fair you are entering. Generally the size limitations are 30 inches (76 cm) deep, 48 inches (122 cm) wide, and 72 inches (183 cm) high (does not include table height).
Anything that is or could be hazardous to other students or the public is prohibited and cannot be displayed. The following is a list of things that are generally unacceptable for display. Your teacher has access to a complete list of safety rules from your local science fair officials. Models or photographs can be used instead of things that are restricted from display. The following items are generally unacceptable for display:
Microbial cultures or fungi, living or dead
Animal or human parts, except for teeth, hair, nails, and dried animal bones
Liquids, including water
Chemicals and/or their empty containers, including caustics, acids, and household cleaners
Open or concealed flames
Batteries with open-top cells
Aerosol cans of household solvents
Controlled substances, poisons, or drugs
Any equipment or device that would be hazardous to the public
Sharp items, such as syringes, knives, and needles
Where to Purchase Display Boards
Check local office supply stores.
Resources For More Tips on Preparing A Good Display
|Jancie VanCleave’s Science Through the Ages|