With the right preparation, science fair projects can be relatively painless.

The best middle school science fair projects can be cheap, quick and straightforward. By studying the effect of easily controlled variables on the rate of the chemical reaction of Alka-Seltzer and solution rate of sugar cubes, students gain experience with all the elements of the scientific method, including controlled variables, repeated trials, careful analysis of the data and formally presenting the process.

Effects of Temperature on Chemical and Physical Changes

Chemical changes result when new products are formed.

Place one tablet of Alka-Seltzer in the bottom of the cup.

Pour the ice water into a cup until it is about 3/4 full, and start your timer

Stop the timer as soon as the bubbles stop.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 using room temperature, warm and then hot water.

Complete three trials for each temperature water.

Experimentation formalizes the familiar process of dissolving sugar.

Repeat the entire experiment, using a sugar cube instead of Alka-Seltzer.

Effects of Surface Area on the Rate of a Chemical and Physical Changes

Place a whole Alka-Seltzer tablet in the bottom of a dry cup.

Pour room temperature water into the cup, and start the timer.

Stop the timer as soon as the bubbles stop.

Break an Alka-Seltzer tablet into large chunks -- approximately four to six pieces -- and repeat steps 1 through 3.

Crush Alka-Seltzer into a powder using a mortar and pestle, or by placing it in a plastic bag and using a rolling pin or tin can to crush the tablet. Repeat steps 1 through 3.

Complete three trials for each variable: whole, pieces and powder.

Repeat the experiment using sugar cubes, measuring how long the cube takes to dissolve.