What happens at the Science Fair?

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Science and Engineering Fair

Your Fair Exhibit

First you register, receive your Participant Package, then set up your exhibit and wait for the final Safety Review. Our Display and Safety Committee inspects every project. If there is anything that does not comply with ISEF standards, a Committee representative will let you know so you can take care of the issue.

Note: More info about projects and exhibits are at How do I do a science fair project?

If yours is a Junior Level R/ED or Topic Presentation project, you can sign up for the tours and challenges as soon as Display and Safety approves your project. If yours is a Senior Level R/ED project, you must have SRC approval in place before you sign up for the adventures SUNY Potsdam has waiting.

Your judges come in early to receive their training and preview the projects. You get back from your SUNY Potsdam adventure for lunch while the judges finish their preparations.

Fair Officials will announce when the Exhibit Hall is closed to the public; all family, friends, teachers and mentors must leave. Once the Exhibit Hall is secured, only Judges, Fair Officials and Fair Volunteers may enter. In case of medical emergencies, appropriate individuals will be escorted into the Exhibit Hall by Fair Officials. The TNRSEF may remove from the Fair any student violating these rules.

Please note, restrooms will be open to Fair students during Judging inside the secured space. The TNRSEF provides security at all access points, so parents and chaperones may be confident the young people are safe.

Sharing Your Accomplishments with the Judges

Be prepared to explain your project and answer questions about your project and sources of information. Expect to be at your exhibit until all judging is done. Leave your “will be back” card at your exhibit if you have to leave your project during judging (e.g., to use the adjoining rest rooms). If you leave the secured areas before Judging is over, you will not be permitted to return and your project will be withdrawn from the Fair.

What to remember about Judging

  • Your display, abstract (a summary of your project, usually one paragraph) and your ability to talk and answer questions about your project are very important.
  • Practice talking about your project with other people. Judges are very interested in what you are doing and will listen carefully to your explanations. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. This will make you more comfortable during the very important question and answer phase of judging.
  • For some projects, it is easier to explain your results by making charts or illustrations of what happened. (Hint: Photographs of your project can be very useful. They can supply data and proof that you have a project, just in case it blows up the day before it is due or the plants you fed special chemicals to decide to die.)
  • Be sure that you acknowledge the photographer in your display.
  • Have fun! One reason people become scientists is that doing research and talking to others about it is fun!

The Judging Process

All exhibits are judged during the same judging period. Judges independently visit each exhibit assigned to their team, examine the project and interview the student(s). Each Fair Judge interview should take 10-15 minutes; Special Awards judges may take less time, give the very specific award parameters. Be brief (3-4 minutes) with your presentation so you have time for questions. Don’t use a PowerPoint show; the judge wants to talk with you. Special Awards judges will begin their rounds after the first hour of Fair judging.

Helpful Tip Bring books or silent games for the times between judge interviews. You may also bring or purchase snacks. Don’t forget water, since the interviews can tire your voice.

R/ED students may have a few small groups of judges arriving to talk with them late in the Judging Period. Special Awards judges may be completing their rounds during this time as well, so ALL students remain at their exhibits until Officials announce they may leave. This is the time when students tend to relax and gab with their neighbors. However, be respectful and QUIET if a judge is interviewing a student near you!

Public Viewing and Awards Ceremony

When all judging is completed, Fair Officials will announce when the Exhibit Hall is open to the public and your families and teachers can come in to see your projects and those of the friends you’ve made. Remember, until Fair Officials announce that the Exhibit Hall is re-opened to the public, no one may join you in the Exhibit Hall except Judges and Fair Officials. If your teacher, parent or friend enters the Hall unescorted for any reason during Judging, you and your project will be removed from the Fair.

The Awards Ceremony begins with our keynote speaker, always interesting and always a welcome break. Students enjoy separate reserved seating at the front of the hall. Students will be told when they may begin to pack up their exhibits. Students who win certain awards may be asked to remain after for photographs or to meet about travel plans. Don’t worry; this will all be announced.

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