What type of project should be taken up
You can select any project you like, which can be related to the main theme of the Congress. However, there are problems, study of which needs sophisticated equipments and continuous efforts for a long time. Projects on such problems are generally taken up in research laboratories, universities and colleges. A project to be done by children in NCSC need to be completed within a short span of time (3-6 months), and done with the limited knowledge they have on the topic.
So, a children’s project cannot and should not be compared to a project by senior scientists carried out with sophisticated techniques and lot of study materials.
Every two years a focal theme at the national level is selected for the Children’s Science Congress. Such a theme encompasses a lot of sub-themes. The themes and sub-themes are always related to the society and the environment we live in.
Your topic should fall within one of the sub-themes (Please refer to this year’s information brochure on NCSC) and have a direct relevance to the society and the environment. The project should be such that it is within your capabilities and fits into your time frame. Remember that this project is an extra-curricular activity you are getting involved in and so this should always be done in spare time only (may be during the summer vacation). Studying regular books etc. still remains your prime duty. NCSC never advocates your spending valuable time on this project alone, as you know, NCSC is an effort to inculcate scientific temperament amongst all through experiments and experience. Keeping this in mind, select an apparently small yet relevant local problem and concentrate on finding out ways to solve it. In fact, there is nothing called ‘a small problem’ irrespective of whatever it needs to be studied in the laboratory with sophisticated equipment or not. It will be helpful to adopt simple experiments to analyse the different aspects of the problem instead of resorting only to survey and observations.
In broad sense, the projects for the National Children’s Science Congress can be divided into two categories
(a) Survey based and
(b) Experiment based
(a) Survey Based Project: There are two types of Survey Based Projects. In the first type, data collection is carried out with the help of questionnaire associated with the project topic. For example, a project related to expansion of education in a particular locality or community. In the second type, data collection is carried out directly from the specimen or specimens involved with the project topic. For example, you are going to survey on different species of local fish present in different water bodies in a particular region. In this case, you will have to collect the names of species of local fishes either by directly inspecting the water bodies or from the fisherman and experts.
Majority of the projects undertaken by our child scientists are of the two types as mentioned above. In the second type of survey-based projects, although a scientific inference could be drawn, it depends on the perseverance and minute observation capability of the child scientist. In the first type of survey-based projects, number based data are more prevalent than scientific data. Thus, this type of projects lead to some relatively acceptable social conclusion instead of proper scientific inference. Such projects have little role to play in finding the scientific and logical solution of a problem. From our previous experience, we have been observing that some of the child scientists had asked absurd and unscientific questions as – “Do you have mango trees in your home garden? Do you have flower garden in your home? Is your village street a paved one?” etc., during door to door survey. The answers of such questions could be directly obtained by observation instead of questioning. However, survey may be essential for certain projects related to topics like, vanishing indigenous technologies of a race or community; diminishing scientific attitude of the people of a locality, etc. Similarly, for collecting the local names of certain plants, fishes or other organism, questionnaire based survey may be required.
Nevertheless, one should always remember that survey can help only to take practical measures or to scientifically analyse the problems of a project. It is difficult to accomplish a true scientific project only through survey.
(b) Experiment Based Project: Experiment based projects are different from survey based projects. In this type of projects instead of collecting data from individuals or organisations; these are acquired directly from experiments carried out by child scientists in a laboratory or in field conditions. The primary aim of NCSC is to build up scientific attitude along with the development of the knowledge of the scientific study among the children of our country. Therefore, more emphasis has been given or experiment based projects. Consequently, it necessitates to give a detail discussion on the methodology of experiment based project.
For conducting an experiment based project, one has to adopt the existing universal procedure, which consists of the following seven steps.
- Formulation of hypothesis
- Collection of data
- Analysis of data
- Conclusion or inference
The projects undertaken for NCSC have also to be completed through the above mentioned steps. However, documentation of the project should be done according to certain standard rules, which is necessary to maintain a uniform standard throughout the country.
The problem associated with your project has been referred to as the “phenomenon” as mentioned above. In the first step you have to observe carefully the problem or the “phenomenon”. The second step comprises of formulating legitimate questions as to the occurrence of that phenomenon. After considering all the probable reasons a hypothesis regarding the phenomenon is developed. Then the hypothesis is subjected to tests or experiments. Sometime you may have to change the hypothesis, if it cannot be established with the help of experiments or tests. In such a case, you have to develop a new hypothesis, which is again subjected to separate tests or experiments.
The data acquired from the results of the tests or experiments are then analysed. Finally, a conclusion or inference is drawn from the analysis of the data. The conclusion or inference also helps to derive the solutions of the problems of the concerned project.
Let us consider an imaginary project to illustrate the above mentioned procedure. The child scientist of this project has noticed that the leaf tips of majority of the plants of their garden have been dried. The disease has been particularly severe in case of newly formed leaves (observation stage). Why it has happened? What are the probable reasons of the disease? On seeking the answers to the above questions, the group considered three probable reasons as the causes of the disease (hypothesis).
- Pest attack
- Fluctuation of soil pH
- Deficiency of mineral nutrient.
To ascertain the exact reason the child scientist then conducted a set of experiments. At first, he applied pesticides on the diseased plants. After a few days he observed that the disease has not been cured. Therefore, he cancelled the first probable reason. Then he tested the soil pH, which showed that there has not been any significant fluctuation of soil pH. Thus, he concluded that the second probable reason is also not applicable.
To test the third probable reason he selected two diseased plants present at two opposite ends of the garden. In one of the plants he applied NPK fertilizer while in the second one he applied a mixture of trace elements (mineral nutrient). After a few days he observed that the second plant began to produce healthy leaves without dried leaf tips. Thus from the experiments he concluded that observed disease was caused by deficiency of a particular mineral element.