The success of our local, regional, and state science fairs are dependent upon the quality of judging for the fair. We realize that judging a science fair is a large commitment of time and effort, but the rewards are helping to encourage the next generation of scientists for our state and country.
The purpose of the science fair is to give young people the opportunity to be actively engaged in the scientific process of developing an idea, testing the idea and then drawing conclusions and ideas from the results. Along with your role as an evaluator of student projects, you will also have the job of reinforcing that purpose as well as encouraging, motivating, and even sometimes doing a little teaching. Even a participant whose project is of modest quality should feel a sense of accomplishment and be proud of what he or she did. Clearly, you have a critical responsibility in the success of this enterprise.
The students you meet probably already have won or placed in their school science fairs. They will be proud of their accomplishments and should be able to explain their projects clearly and concisely. This explanation should include what they did as well as their results and conclusions. Their displays should clearly show the intent and outcomes of experimentation, and they should be able to answer questions about their projects at levels appropriate to their ages and grade levels. They should be able to describe the methodology and equipment employed and the thought processes that were used to develop their hypotheses, experimental designs, results, and conclusions.
You should not be surprised to find projects vary widely in quality and sophistication. Some projects, particularly at the high school level, may be comparable to what you would expect in graduate school or professional presentations. The vast majority, of course, will be more elementary. Some displays will be elaborate while others may be relatively simple. The purpose of the display is to clearly communicate the project’s purpose, hypothesis, methodology, results, conclusions, and other information relevant to the investigation. A simple, clear, and well-organized display is to be preferred over one that is ornate but falls short of accomplishing this purpose. Although the fact that a display is attractive should be taken in account, scientific content and the ability to communicate that content is of primary importance.