What to Expect

Who helps me with my project?

One of the great things about a science fair is that there is room for parent involvement and outside help. By sharing science experiences, parents, teachers, and other mentors demonstrate that learning is an important and enjoyable process. The key is that you are the lead on the project. Adults can offer advice, review forms, help gather materials, assist in constructing the backboard, and proofread grammar, however, the research and overall project, should reflect the effort of the student(s).

Working with a professional can open your eyes to current research, laboratory equipment, and valuable advice.  As a student, you will not be penalized if you choose to work on a project under the supervision of a researcher, however, we encourage students to do the majority of the work and have a strong understanding of the research they are working on.

We understand that it can be difficult to find a mentor and we do not penalize students who are working on their own.  Some of the best research we have seen at the fair comes from students that have researched simple problems in new and creative ways! However, you will need to have at least an Adult Sponsor (could be a parent/guardian) to go over your project paperwork. Depending on your experimental design, you may be required to have a Designated Supervisor or Qualified Scientist.

Which category should I pick for my project?

CSRSEF uses the same categorization as Intel ISEF. Each project must be entered into one of the 20 science, math, and engineering categories.  Many projects can easily fit into more than one Intel ISEF category, therefore, it is your decision to choose the category that most accurately describes your project.

Before selecting your category, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who will be the most qualified to judge my project?  What area of expertise is the most important for the judge to have? (For example, a medical background or an engineering background?)
  2. What is the emphasis of my project?  What characteristic of my project is the most innovative, unique or important?  (For example, is it the application in medicine or the engineering of the machine?)

Please note:  Fair officials reserve the right to combine similar categories into larger judging groups to streamline the judging process

When/what can I expect to hear from Central Sound Fair staff?

After you fill out the online registration, you should receive a confirmation that your submission was successful. If your project is in need of pre-approval, expect to hear from us in the next 1-3 weeks to let you know if there is anything you are missing in order for you to go forward with your project. Two weeks before the Fair, we will send you an email to request an abstract of your project. One week before the Fair, we will send you a day-of logistics email and assign you your project number. Post-Fair we will send you an email about the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.

What is SRC/IRB and why does my project need to be approved?

The CSRSEF Scientific Review Committee and Institutional Review Board (SRC/IRB) is a group of adults knowledgeable about regulations concerning experimentation.  All student projects involving human subjects, vertebrate animals, potentially hazardous biological agents, hazardous materials, and DEA-controlled substances MUST receive SRC/IRB approval BEFORE beginning their projects.

These professionals are primarily concerned that the projects are constructed and that data is collected in a safe, respectful, and legal manner. Their review does not indicate if a project is “good” or “bad,” only if it is safe to continue or not. While literature reviews are often required by teachers, it is not evaluated by the SRC/IRB. This committee is concerned with methodology of construction or data collection, as well as issues of consent, safety, and legality.

What does the day of the Fair look like?

The day-of schedule looks tentatively like this:

8:00 to 9:00 amStudent Registration and Project Set-Up. All Projects must be set up and approved by the display committee by 9:00 am.
9:00 to 12:00 pmJudging with Students (no parents/families allowed in gym).
12:00 to 1:00 pmLunch Break. Please note that there will be very limited food service for student participants on campus on during the fair. Please plan to bring a lunch or go off campus during this time.
1:00 to 1:30 pmStudents take down projects
1:30 to 4:30 pmBreak for students (concurrent final judging for selected students)
4:30 to 5:30 pmAwards Ceremony

Projects must be set up by 9:00am. There are three rounds of judging. The judging process can be lengthy with a lot of “down” time and standing around. We recommend that you dress professionally but comfortably, with comfortable shoes. You may bring a book to read or homework to work on. Be sure that whatever you bring is not a distraction to yourself or others.

What does the setup for my project display look like?

Your display will be a visual aid that will briefly state all the important aspects of your project: problem, hypothesis, experiment description, results/analysis, conclusions and applications.

Be sure to read through the Visual Display requirements as listed on the ISEF display and safety regulations page. Also, note that no photos of others are allowed, unless a signed release form has been submitted.

Besides the project board, your notebook(s) and the official abstract should be included. Also, have all of the originals of all forms required for your project.

We recommend that you only display computer or other valuable items while you are with your project. There is NO access to power, so you will not be able to recharge any electronics. The CSRSEF and Bellevue College are not responsible for lost or stolen items.

While CSRSEF adheres to ISEF display and safety regulations, we understand that in many cases, CSRSEF will serve as a student’s first competitive science fair. With this in mind, we encourage students to follow the ISEF display and safety rules, but CSRSEF will not disqualify a project unless unsafe for the participants, judges, or visitors (i.e. use of fire or explosives, large quantities of water, etc). Each project will be visited by a Display and Safety team, and they will let the participants know if their display would be in violation at other science fairs–most notably WSSEF and ISEF.

Maximum Size of Project: Depth (front to back): 30 inches or 76 centimeters Width (side to side): 48 inches or 122 centimeters Height (floor to top): 108 inches or 274 centimeters. Maximum project sizes include all project materials, supports, and demonstrations for public and judges.

What does the judging process look like?

The CSRSEF category judges evaluate projects using the Intel ISEF judging criteria.  Judges are looking for creative ability, scientific thought, thoroughness, skill, and clarity.  Team projects will also be judged on how well the students worked together.

Typically, you will be at your project for 2 of the 3 judging rounds and will be visited between 1 and 3 times by a judging team of 2-4 individuals. The judges put together a list of sample questions they may ask you for your reference (link to come). Usually each time you are visited, judges will spend about 5-10 minutes with you; use your time wisely, and note there is a lot of down time while you wait.

Special awards judges may ask you specific questions directly related to the organization who sponsored the award (see below for more details).

How long does the judging last and when can I leave?

Typically there are two judging sessions, each 45 minutes long with a 15 minute intermission. Students will stay at their project during their assigned session and are free to look at other projects during the other. ALL students are required to stay at their project during the third judging session–this is when special awards judges and final category judging will take place. Students selected to be considered for Grand Champion will be notified after the lunch break. All other students will take down their projects between 1-1:30pm so the room can be set up for the Awards Ceremony.

What if I can’t come to CSRSEF during the judging time?

The judging interview is the most important component of the judging process. If you cannot come at all, we recommend that you do not compete at CSRSEF.

Those students in King and Snohomish counties who want to compete at the state level need to participate at CSRSEF. It is up to the fair director to give you permission to compete at the Washington State Fair if you do not participate in CSRSEF–she only does so in very special circumstances. Those who compete at other competitions or have sports-related obligations will NOT be granted a waiver to compete at WSSEF.

ALL team members must be present during judging. It would otherwise be difficult for the judges to understand the contributions of each team member. Team projects without all members present will receive a hefty team deduction on their final score.

What awards can I win?

There are three types of student awards at the CSRSEF: Grand Awards, Category Awards, and Special Awards.  High school students can also nominate their teacher for the Bruce Murdock Teacher of the Year Award.

The top two winners of the CSRSEF will receive an all-expenses paid trip to participate in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Arizona May 12-17, 2019. Students travel with all of the Intel ISEF participants from Washington State. Grand Awards are selected by the CSRSEF Head Judges during a special judging session.  All Grand Award winners and their parents are expected to attend a special meeting immediately following the CSRSEF awards ceremony to discuss ISEF policies and procedures.

Category award winners are chosen by category judges.  The number of awards (1st, 2nd, 3rd) depends on participation levels and the quality of projects within each category.  Since the CSRSEF is a small fair, we often group categories together and make awards within each category group. To receive a category award, a project must be of the highest quality within their category.   For this reason, not all categories are guaranteed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes.

Special awards are sponsored by local and national businesses and organizations.  Eligibility varies from award to award, and recipients are chosen by special awards judges. A final listing of awards will be posted after award information is confirmed with sponsors.  Special thanks to our local sponsors and local chapters handling awards distributed by ISEF.

2018 Category Award Winners
2018 Special Award Winners
PDF of 2017 Category Award Winners
PDF of 2017 Special Awards Winners
2016 CSRSEF Category Awards
2016 CSRSEF Special Awards
2015 CSRSEF Awards
2014 CSRSEF Awards

How do I nominate my teacher for an Award?

Do you have a great science teacher?  Nominate him/her for the Bruce Murdock Teacher of the Year Award!

To nominate your teacher, send us a letter telling us how he/she has supported you throughout the science fair process.  Please be sure to tell us about your teacher’s:

  • Creativity
  • Dedication to students
  • Efforts to help students understand the science or engineering process.

The winning teacher will receive an acrylic award and a cash prize during the CSRSEF Award Ceremony.

Mr. Bruce Murdock from Cedarcrest High School was named the first recipient of  CSRSEF Teacher of the Year award in March 2012.  Mr. Murdock and fellow teacher Kellie Halverson spent 5 years incorporating independent research projects into Cedarcrest High School’s honors science classes, creating problem-based research opportunities for over 50 students each year.  The award is named the Bruce Murdock Teacher of the Year Award to honor Mr. Murdock’s contributions to the science education in Washington State. He continues to build up the science fair community by serving on both CSRSEF and WSSEF advisory boards, as well as being the chair of the Scientific Review Committee for CSRSEF.

Send your finished letters to the CSRSEF director on or before March 1, 2019.

What is WSSEF?

Washington State is home to five ISEF-affiliated science fairs:  four regional fairs and one state-wide competition.  Students MUST participate in a regional fair (if available) to be eligible to compete at the Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (WSSEF).
Location: Bremerton, WA
Eligibility: Washington State Students in Grades 1-12

What is ISEF?

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the largest pre-college scientific research event in the world, and is owned and administered by the Society for Science & the Public a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. The top 2 projects from CSRSEF go on to compete at ISEF.

Why should I compete?

Participation in science fair stimulates student’s interest in science and technology while simultaneously promoting the development of communication, decision making, evaluation of alternative solutions, and critical thinking.

A science or engineering project answers the question ‘Why do I need to learn this stuff?’ Independent research projects (like those at science fairs) build confidence, challenge stereotypes, and create learning opportunities beyond the classroom.  They develop skills in science, math, English, and critical thinking, and meet many of the Washington State Science Learning Standards for high school students.   Science fair projects take students on a journey of learning and discovery that can inspire a love of inquiry and research.

Graduating high school students that receive awards and recognition at regional fairs and beyond have a distinct advantage over other college applicants in being considered and accepted by the schools of their choice. This is because science fair honors rank high among the screening factors used by admissions officers at most top universities.

Do you have any tips or advice?

  • Work on something you yourself are interested in. You don’t need to know all about your topic when you start. That is the whole idea of doing research. Good projects are ones that you have fun with.
  • Start early. This gives you more time for research and to polish your presentation.
  • Get lots of help. There are many people that can help you with your project: teachers, mentors and parents. They can’t do your project for you but they can teach you about all sorts of things including how to use tools needed for your research.
  • Make a plan. It takes time to learn and do research. Your teachers plan out the entire year for courses you take. You need to meet deadlines too but you can keep your schedule simple. Keep track of things you need to do like creating an abstract, doing research and writing a research paper (which is encouraged, but not required).
  • Project data book. A project data book is your most treasured piece of work. Accurate and detailed notes make a logical and winning project. Good notes show consistency and thoroughness to the judges, and will help you when writing your research paper.
  • Abstract. After finishing research and experimentation, you are required to write a maximum 250 words, one-page abstract. An abstract should include (a) the purpose of the experiment, (b) procedures used, (c) data, and (d) conclusions. It also may include any possible research applications. Only minimal reference to previous work may be included. An abstract should not include the following: acknowledgments, or work or procedures done by the mentor.
  • Visual display. You want to attract and inform. Make it easy for interested spectators and judges to assess your study and the results you have obtained. Make the most of your space using clear and concise displays. Make headings stand out, and draw graphs and diagrams clearly and label them correctly. But any display you assemble must follow our Safety and Display guidelines.
  • A good title. Your title is an extremely important attention-grabber. A good title should simply and accurately present your research. The title should make the casual observer want to know more.
  • Take photographs. Many projects involve elements that may not be safely exhibited at the fair, but are an important part of the project. You might want to take photographs of important parts/phases of your experiment to use in your display. Photographs or other visual images of human test subjects must have informed consent.
  • Be organized. Make sure your display is logically presented and easy to read. A glance should permit anyone (particularly the judges) to locate quickly the title, experiments, results, and conclusions. When you arrange your display, imagine that you are seeing it for the first time.
  • Eye-catching. Make your display stand out. Use neat, colorful headings, charts, and graphs to present your project. Home-built equipment, construction paper, and colored markers are excellent for project displays. Pay special attention to the labeling of graphs, charts, diagrams, and tables. Each item must have a descriptive title. Anyone should be able to understand the visuals without further explanation.
  • Correctly presented & well constructed. Be sure to adhere to size limitations and safety rules when preparing your display. Display all required forms for your project. Make sure your display is sturdy, as it must remain intact for quite a while.
  • Research report. A report is optional, but strongly encouraged and will be required at ISEF. A project report is the written record of your entire project from start to finish. It should be clear and detailed enough for a reader to know exactly what you did, why you did it, what the results were, whether or not the experimental evidence supported your hypothesis, and where you got your research information. This written document is your spokesperson when you are not present to explain your project, but more than that, it documents all your work.
  • Do your best! Great research does not make a great project if you do not present it well. Aspects of the project like writing a paper or making a presentation board may not be at the top of your list of interesting things to do but they are all needed to make a great project. You will find it easier and more fun as you become better at doing these chores.

If my project is disqualified for improper procedure or missing forms, will I receive a refund of my entry fee?

We cannot give refunds to projects that are disqualified or withdrawn. It takes time and resources for the CSRSEF to review all of the projects, entered or not.

More questions?

If you have additional questions about the CSRSEF, forms, procedures, individual projects or anything else we’ve missed, we would like to hear from you! Contact us and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.

Last Updated December 17, 2018