Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Science Fair Fare: 46 Science Fair Projects for the Evil Genius by Bob Bonnet and Dan Keen

Truth in advertising--this latest in the "Evil Genius" series of science books doesn't require malevolent intent or extreme gray matter from the user. It is simply a straightforward, well- thought-out guide to preparing science projects, 46 of them, to be exact, aimed at grades 6-12.

In 46 Science Fair Projects for the Evil Genius authors Bonnet and Keen give the reader a no-nonsense, time-saving, how-to book great to have at hand when science fair deadlines are looming. Bonnet begins with a to-the-point discussion of the scientific method and an overview of how projects are judged ("What Makes A Good Project?") based on his extensive experience in that role. With the concept of problem, hypothesis, prediction and procedure, evaluation, and conclusion firmly established, the authors jump right into clear-cut directions for 46 projects, all of which are crossover experiments combining several disciplines across the sciences.

Conveniently included are lists of readibly obtained materials, step-by-step procedures and instructions, and a discussion of interpreting results and documenting conclusions. The authors comment pertinently that a failure to prove the hypothesis does not mean that the project is a failure because often much is learned by discovering what doesn't work (as shown by Thomas Edison's many failures with various materials tried as the filaments for incandescent lamps).

Bonnet and Keen offer projects using the biological sciences, physics and chemistry, earth science, environmental science, and social sciences. Even observational psychology, for example, comes into play in an experiment which compares the role of gender in the number of students who violate directions which state "Do Not Open" on an unlocked box on a high school cafeteria table. Other appealing topics test the effects of storm-driven salt water on coastal landscaping plants, stock market strategies, lemon as an active ingredient vs. marketing ploy in cleaning products, and the adaptability of various age groups to changes in technology.

Simplicity of directions is ably combined with respectably complex projects for the middle and high school student in this strong addition to the science fair project book shelf. For the lighter side of how-to manuals there's the witty 51 High-Tech Practical Jokes for the Evil Genius. Other books in this series which help the harried student get on it and get it done include the scientifically serious 50 Green Projects for the Evil Genius, Fuel Cell Projects for the Evil Genius, and Solar Energy Projects for the Evil Genius.

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