Judging at the
California State Science Fair

How will the judging work?
Judging at the California State Science Fair means personal interviews with the judges. Every participant at the Fair will be interviewed by several Fair judges, and may during the same judging time see various Special and/or Recognition Awards judges. Since the arrangement at the State Science Fair may be different from your county or regional fair, let me break this into several areas.

Schedule: All judging will take place on Tuesday morning as follows:

All interviews between judges and participants will take place only during the two judging sessions. Students must be present for the entire time interval. Your judging panel will be meeting in the judges' room during the break and after the end of the judging period, so no other interviews will be required of participants (with the single exception of candidates for the CSSF Student of the Year Award, whose interviews are scheduled elsewhere during the afternoon).

Who are the judges?
On Tuesday morning you will receive at your project display a list of the Category Award judges for your panel and their qualifications. These judges are recruited by the Fair for these Fair awards. At the beginning of the first judging session the chair of your judging panel should inform you as to how many judges there are and how many interviews you may expect, since the number will depend upon both the number of projects and of judges.

In addition, you will see many judges who represent independent corporations and scientific and engineering societies and who are interviewing for Special and Recognition Awards. These judges will not interview every student because they are deciding awards with selection criteria set by each independent awarding organization. The nametags of judges for Fair and Special and Recognition awards will distinguish between the two.

What will they ask me?
The judges are interested in what you have personally accomplished in doing your project. They may begin by asking general questions about your goal in the project, but will be most interested in your answers to specific questions about details of your work which they will only discover when speaking with you. Your original laboratory notebook should be present during the interview period, though it does not need to be left with your display either before or after this time.

The best science projects lead not only to new understanding, but also to new questions about possible relationships or connections that may not have been suspected before. In light of this, many judges will conclude their interview with you with questions about where the project may lead next. It is not necessary that you would take this step, but you should at least think through what the next step could be.

Why do the judges keep interrupting? Don't they like my project?
The judges understand that many students have prepared speeches describing their work, but will nevertheless interrupt these speeches when it is important for their understanding. You should expect these interruptions as normal, and not as some sign that the judges didn't like your project.

Last updated: Wed Apr 2 16:27:23 PST 2003
California State Science Fair / Judging FAQ / CalifSF@usc.edu