Most science fair project experiments come and go. People forget about them. This project you will benefit from all the rest of your life. In addition, it could pave the way for you to help others.
This project involves emotions, something that few people discuss, yet is such a big part of our life. We are emotional beings, as well as thoughtful beings. Today, many people use the term Stress Management to manage their emotions.
In this project, you will learn how your emotions work. You will be able to monitor your emotions in various situations. This Science Fair Project has the potential of continuing all the rest of your life. You are making yourself a tool to manage life’s difficulties.
As background, most of what we call Emotional Stress is actually a normal body function called “Flight or Fight Response”. A person’s brain and body work together monitoring the surroundings, including people, for potential harm. This is hardwired into our system and cannot be changed. What we can change is our response to the perceptions of stress. We can decide consciously decide to ignore this response and instead relax. We decide there is no threat and therefore it is okay to relax. If there is indeed a threat, we can decide what to do about it – fight or flight.
Not everyone knows that emotional stress can be electronically monitored, as you will soon learn. Emotional Stress has been electronically monitored for many years starting with lie detectors or polygraphs, invented in the early 1920’s. From much of the same equipment, Biofeedback started in the 1970’s to achieve mind-body self-regulation. Today, the latest term is Affective Computing, where computers measure emotions.
A commonality between lie detectors, biofeedback, and affective computing is “Skin Conductance” which is a measure of the “Flight or Fight Response”. When we are stressed, we perspire, especially on our hands.
As your Science Fair Experiment, please consider using a Lie Detector as an Emotional Stress Indicator. Yes, you can use it as a Lie Detector, but that is just a very tiny start of the possibilities for this device. The applications are only limited by your imagination.
Some suggested steps to implement your project are below.
1. Learn about Science Fair Projects, especially the guidelines to follow at your own school. Check with your parents and instructor to see if this is a valid project concept, before you start. Follow directions to maximize your results.
2. Learn a little bit about Lie Detectors, Biofeedback, and Affective Computing just to see what is available on these topics, should you want to learn more later.
3. Learn more about the “Flight or Fight Response”, Skin Conductance, and Galvanic Skin Response. These concepts are the working elements of this project.
4. Make or buy a Lie Detector. Kits are available for a few dollars. If you build, you can learn electronic assembly. Some of the more expensive devices have a computer interface.
5. Start experimenting, casually at first just to get used to the apparatus. Especially learn how skin contact adversely affects your measurements. Just squeezing the skin sensors tighter will give you a false result. Learn how to maintain constant skin pressure.
6. Begin experimenting and be sure to follow Science Fair guidelines for documenting your results, observations, and conclusions.
7. Astound your fellow students, instructors, parents, and school. Be prepared to be approached with scholarship offers from Science Fair attendees.
In addition to experimenting with Lie Detection, which creates stress, here are some other possible experiments, that might make your project unique.
1. Find out your own personal stress triggers, whether they be situations or people. Learn to relax around those conditions. This is Stress Management but now you have an actual tool to measure your emotions. You have learned Stress Management.
2. Take this device to your doctor, with their permission. See how their “Bedside Manner” affects your emotions. See how you respond just being around a doctor, since you probably regard them as authority figures. “White Coat Syndrome” is a common occurrence where a person’s blood pressure goes up just being around a health care professional. You have learned how important it is to have a good doctor-patient relationship. Your doctor might very well be interested in your project to improve their practice of medicine.
3. When you are not feeling well, you might check your stress level. You might find that when you relax you feel better. Many maladies are related to stress. Of course, let your parents or doctor know that you are not feeling well too.
4. When you are hungry or eating unhealthy foods, consider checking your stress level. You might find that you want to eat when you are emotional or stressed, which might lead to bad eating habits. Again, let your parents, school counselor, or doctor know about this. They might be able to help you eat healthier.
5. Discover how animals affect your tension level. Most animals are relaxing. In fact, some hospitals are using specially trained Therapy Animals to assist in treatment.
6. Find out your own personal relaxation activities and exercises. Much of this relates to what you like to do and what you do not like to do. Stress is not all bad. Some stress is good. Bad stress, also called “Distress”, can affect health adversely. Good stress, doing things you like to do, is called “Eustress”.
7. You can continue this list with topics of your own interest and consider sharing your project with other students around the world.
- Studying Emotional Stress is a meaningful Science Fair Project and can have life-long benefit.
- A simple Lie Detector can observe emotional Stress. Information, kits, and devices are readily available.
- This topic has potential for further growth, scholarships, and generally positive interest.
For more information:
- Science Fair Projects For Dummies by Maxine Levaren, John Wiley & Sons, 2011
- Science Projects and Lie Detectors
- Galvanic Skin Response Sensor
- “Science Fair Lie Detector Manual” – – Discontinued product but outstanding information on How It Works, Theory, and many Experiments on pages 6-11. This is very helpful, indeed!
- “Emotions” Science Fair Projects
- Good Internet Search String – science fair project (lie detector OR polygraph OR biofeedback OR emotion)
Some examples of low cost Lie Detector (Biofeedback) Kits:
- Elenco Lie Detector Model: K44
- Electronic Goldmine Lie Detector Kit Item Number : C4657
- Good Internet Search String to find a Lie Detector (Biofeedback) kit – (lie detector OR polygraph OR biofeedback) (electronic OR computer) kit
Some Biofeedback Tools available to the public:
- Mindplace Thoughtstream USB Personal Biofeedback
- GSR2 Home Biofeedback Unit
- CalmLink Biofeedback Software
- Wearable ‘Q Sensor’ Helps Monitor Stress Levels
Disclaimer – Article is for information only and is not medical advice.