When it comes to science fairs, baking soda volcanoes and models of the solar system are always popular. But, says Katherine Harmon at the Scientific American Observations blog, these days, the competition is getting a little more intense, and students are looking for ways to make their projects stand out. There are a variety of Web sites that offer advice and ideas, but one site is taking it one step further by asking working researchers to team up with students and help them design "cutting-edge experiments that qualify as real research," Harmon says. The site, Science Buddies, was founded by engineer and dad Kenneth Hess about 10 years ago — it employs a 26-question survey to accurately match researchers and students with projects that best suit their interests, with questions like, "Do you like animals more than machines?" and "Do you prefer thinking about a problem in your head more than doing it with your hands?" Researchers can submit a plan for a project inspired by their real work, and students can choose which ones they'd like to try, Harmon says. The site was awarded the 2011 Science Prize for Online Resources in Education, she adds, and now averages almost nine million unique visitors per year.
May 24, 2011