Judging Science Fair

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Science Fair Judges evaluate the quality of work done in planning and carrying out a project in pure applied science as well as how well the student understands the project and the subject area.

Higher marks are generally given to the projects laboratory, field or theoretical investigation or construction that demonstrates a creative approach or original thought.  Evaluation of projects also includes how well the student presents how the project evolved (i.e., where they got the idea and how it developed) and an assessment of how much outside help was received.

The three types of projects represented in the Regional Science Fair are as follows:

Experiment

A project of this type would be an investigation undertaken to test a specific hypothesis using experimental methods. Experimental variables, if identified, are controlled to some extent.

Study

This type of project is a collection and analysis of data to reveal evidence of a fact or a situation of scientific interest. This could include a study of cause and effect relationships involving social, political, or economic considerations; in depth studies and theoretical investigations. Identified variables are not feasible to control but meaningful correlations are encouraged.

Innovation

A project of this type would be one involving the development and evaluation of innovative devices, models, or techniques or approaches in fields such as technology, engineering, or computers (both hardware and software).


Regional Science Fair Judging Evaluation Scheme

Click here to see how projects are judged at the Regional Fair.


Volunteer Judges

Each year, we rely on judges to put on a successful fair.  Without these wonderful volunteers, the fair would not be possible.  If you would like to volunteer as a judge at the Regional Science Fair, please consult the call for judges.  If you have any questions, the committee may be contacted at seab.sciencefair@gmail.com. If you would like to judge at a school fair, please contact Praxis.


Judging School Fairs

The following information is courtesy of the Science Experience 101 Program, which assists teachers in Southeast Alberta schools who run their own Science Fair.

How to Judge a Science Fair with Science Experience 101

Judging a science fair is fairly straight forward. At most school fairs, judges will be looking at the students' understanding of scientific methodology and the amount of effort put into the project.

The following sections describe the elements of an experimental project and provide some guidance on questions to ask…

Problem Statement- This is what the students are trying to solve and should be clearly stated. Judges may ask something like “That is a very interesting question, how did you come up with this idea?”.

Hypothesis- This is the students' statement on the outcome of their experiment. Their hypothesis is based on their research which allows them to make an informed prediction. A hypothesis is never wrong, only proved or disproved. Sample questions could include: “Did you use your research to help you form your hypothesis?”, or "What information led you to your hypothesis?”.

Research- This is usually the background research that the student has conducted to help shape their project.  Sometimes research is condensed and put on display boards, sometimes it is in report form, or sometimes both. Here are some sample questions...

“Did you find out any information that was surprising or shocking?”

“Tell me about your background research and where the information came from.”

Materials- Students should record every material used so that another scientist could recreate their experiment. For instance, if the experiment dealt with the staining properties of ink, the brand of ink or pen would be important, and therefore, would be included. Notice how thorough the student is.

Procedure- This describes the steps that the student has followed to test their hypothesis. Students are asked to be meticulous and to record everything (e.g., dates, times, visual observations, etc.). Often the student has a log book or there is a log book section in the report. Judges should skim through this material and ask questions if any gaps in information are present.  But always be constructive -  judges should not attack students'  work or put them on the spot. Instead, judges should gently guide students through the process. Be supportive - if you see them struggling, move on to another question or portion of their project.

Variables- Variables are the parameters that are manipulated throughout an experiment. As projects get more advanced, so do the manipulation of variables. The control variable this is the variable which is held constant throughout the experiment. The independent variable is the variable that the student changes or manipulates. The dependent variable depends on the independent variable. This is where the data, and ultimately, results come from. A judge could ask "Can you tell me why you picked the independent variables that you did?”.

Observations/ Results- This is where the collected data are displayed. Ideally, a graph or a chart should be used in order to visualize any trends. Pictures may also be presented in this section. The student should have the information displayed in such a way, that at a glance, it is obvious to see the results of their experiment.

  Praxis Science Experience 101: Science Fair Sample Chart  

 

Praxis Science Experience 101: Science Fair Sample Chart

 

The x axis (horizontal) always carries the independent variable and the y axis (vertical) carries the dependant variable. A graph should always have two labelled axes, a title, and a legend.

Some sample questions for this section are...

"How many times did you run your experiment?

"How long did your experiment take?”

"Are there any steps or materials you would add if you were to try this again?”

Conclusion/ Application- In the conclusion, the student should state whether they proved or disproved their hypothesis.  At this point, the judge may ask: "Who can this information help and how would it be useful in the world?”

Sources of Error- This section contains the students' comment on variables that may have been out of their control. Judges should look for thoughtfulness and creativity.

Future Considerations- This is what the student would do if they were to keep their project base and expand on it in the following years. This may not be on the project boards, but judges should ask about it. If possible, judges can help the student come up with an idea to expand their work for next year!

References/ Thank-yous- All the information gathered should be credited to their sources and all people involved in the project should be thanked.

Lastly, there are obvious things judges look for that are not part of the scientific mythology.

  • Experiment originality 
  • Neatness
  • Display creativity
  • Thoroughness
  • Attitude while being judged
  • Overall knowledge of material

Judges should always remember that their main goal is to encourage and motivate these little scientists into striving and achieving, no matter what. For some of them, this is their first time in this situation, so take this into consideration.