Science Fair Display Board





Introduction: Science Fair Display Board

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This is my OSFDBPC (One Science Fair Display Board Per Child) project. This is Go Green because it helps to save the planet one piece of cardboard at a time. Besides, it saves you green (American vernacular for money) when you have to purchase one when you don't really need to.

One of the greatest examples of marketing and tribute to P.T. Barnum is selling a big piece of cardboard under the guise of a "Science Fair Display Board" and slapping a price sticker on it for $8.00(tax and VAT not included) or more. For that price, it doesn't even come with a guarantee that your child will learn anything by doing something with it. With thousands of schoolchildren that can't even afford lunch, how do we expect them to use even a few bucks for education in this way. So, here is another frugal family project...besides, it is way cooler if you made it yourself.

Step 1: Get It Together...

I haven't looked at the fine print of the Intel Science Fair rules but I don't think the display board needs to be purchased commercially. The standard dimensions of the Science Fair Display Board is 3 feet high by 4 feet wide (36" high x 48" wide). If it is a tri-fold board design, each of the two side panels are 3 feet high by 1 foot wide (36" high x 12" wide). The two sides fold in making the display easy to store and carry.

Time to rummage through the paper recycling pile for any boxes and large pieces of stiff corrugated
cardboard. The bigger the box the better but don't worry, we will piece togther the cardboard to the right size. You can also ask shopkeepers if they have any large packing boxes to get rid of. Cardboard from IKEA furniture boxes are minimalist in that the skin will puncture easily and lack strength for a display board but don't worry, just laminate two layers together and after painting the surface will hold up better. You will need a bottle of school glue, some paint, and tools to measure and cut. You can use any kind of paint in any color but I always have a can of leftover household wall primer laying around which works well to cover up any cardboard graphics or colors.

You will need plenty of room to work and hopefully you have a large surface to cut the cardboard on. It is easiest to use a sharp razor knife/box cutter to slice the cardboard. Cut the cardboard over a piece of scrap plywood or several other layers of cardboard. Do not do this over your living room carpet or fine hardwood floor!

Carefully deconstruct and unfold your boxes. Examine which way the "grain" or direction the internal ridges are running. This should run vertically to give your board some strength. Lay out your pieces to fit the approximate final size of the flat board 3 feet x 4 feet (36" x 48"). Select the main piece to fit where your display will need to be the most flat. The creases should be placed where they will have least visual impact or if you are lucky, line it up with where the tri-fold board would normally crease.

The technique for joining pieces is to mark a line about 2" in from the edge. Peel back the top layer of cardboard to this line. Carefully with the razor knife, cut the inside corrugated or wavy cardboard along the line but not cutting through to the next outer layer. Remove the inside by peeling it out. Don't worry about any bits that get stuck, it just needs to be flat. You now have piece of cardboard with a U shaped flange that you can glue and mate to another piece of cardboard. Spread glue all over the inside of the channel and attach. When the cardboard is wet with glue, it will appear wrinkly. It will flatten out once it all dries. Don't worry if you make a mess with the glue on the cardboard so you don't have to be too neat.

Cut strips of cardboard to harvest the outer layers of the cardboard. This you will use to seal and finish all the edges of your board. Bridge the gap of any seams and creases if needed. Patch any holes or cuts with this material. You can also use glue to cover all the new seams and paper edges to smooth it out for painting and appearance.

Step 2: Finish It Off!

Mark your lines where you will crease the board for the tri-fold. You can help create a neat crease by first indenting your crease with tapping/pressing a metal straightedge on the line or using a pizza cutter/window screen repair tool to roll over the line. Bend the board back slowly and flatten out the cardboard for a sharp crease.

If you have seams or creases that cause your board to flop over or bend, reinforce it by gluing on a small piece of cardboard bridging the offending fault line. Do this on the "back" of the board so that the repair is not visible on the display front. The grain of the reinforcing piece should be perpendicular to the way the cardboard is flexing for greatest strength. Cover the exposed edges of the reinforcing piece for a neater appearance.

Prime, paint and decorate your board with your Science Fair project. You can write directly on the board but use printouts and such on other sheets of paper to glue over any imperfections in your board. Good luck and hopefully we brought another contender to the Science Fair.

Step 3: More Ideas...

This step is just to give you a few ideas to make the presentation more exciting.

If you are adding realistic "props" or models, nothing beats adding that little wicked gross-out factor. The nose and ear have our signature yarn hair and clay earwax. Oobleck would have been too slimey and runny. It is easy to form anything with papier mache. The base is just scrap bits of cardboard taped/stapled together with blocks of scrap styrofoam packaging taped on. The paper mache skin will hold everything together when dried.

We got our idea for the nose when visiting the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. It had some display where the nose would spray people with a mist as it sneezed, I think it was to show germs and how it spreads.

The last project was to use a sound meter to see how loud sounds are and which ones are damaging to the ear. Yes, that is another homemade science board for this year.

I hope you have found some inspiration. Good luck and science is fun.



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    I'm about to carve up a box... THANKS for the "put something between the knife and the rug or the floor" tip :) :) Would have loved more pictures so maybe I'll post mine!

    2 replies

    (and hte "each side piece is 3' by 1'" which means the middle is 3 x 2 ... saves me the math :) :) Carving now!!!

    Good luck. I made this instructable 8 years ago. The money I had saved making the board is now needed to pay for the kid's college education.

    Nah, Science fair project was not on laszahs. I had to look it up. Thanks.

    man i wish that would be a viable science project.

    Actually, with all the laser pointers you can get at a dollar store, there are so many projects that you can base off of that.  Add a little fog for the presentation and you would be wow'ing the class.  In my day, no one had access to a laser crystal, I had built a cardboard mockup of a laser with a dimming light bulb to simulate a laser crystal stimulating to simulate a laser.

    I've added this to the Green Kids group. Isn't this basically what those of us who are over 30 did for Science Fairs anyway? Great idea to bring it back.

    2 replies

    Well, your avatar doesn't look a day over 30... I remember we did science fair projects on a flat sheet of "oat-tag" that cost a quarter...

    Well, it is a drawing...

    We used recycled cardboard boxes covered with butcher paper. So, basically, this :D

    I do this all the time. Great job!

    this is a really good idea! I have a science fair coming up, too bad my mum has already bought the board. Mine is made from the same material as real estate agents use for signs.

    3 replies

    It looks like you have the Rolls Royce of poster boards. You can make boards out of many materials but this was really about teaching/learning the true value of things. Next time, spend the money on Knex parts or something you can really appreciate.

    haha! I do like using the material. It makes it REALLY easy to re-use as the glue with a bit of pressure just cracks and peels off. I totally agree with what you are saying here. I take enterprise and the teacher says it isnt always the amount of money that goes into it but the amount that you can charge. Is it really $8 USD?? It is $8 NZD...