California State Science Fair
Changes from 2008 - 2009


The California State Science Fair strives continually to improve the quality of the event for its participants throughout the State of California. As part of these ongoing efforts the changes listed below will be implemented. Some of these changes were discussed at the last County Coordinators’ Conference which was held during the 2008 California State Science Fair.

Rolling Acceptances
Some Application Fees Refundable
Fair Venue
Separate Awards Ceremonies/ Project Removal Times
Annual Update
Category Definitions Revised
Project Allocations for 2009
Recent Changes (from last year's Fair)
Category Awards Structure
Application Procedure for Alternates Changed

Rolling Acceptances

Acceptances for students from fairs with early deadlines will receive notice of acceptance early. Application Deadlines are staggered across the month of April with the fairs held earliest having the earliest deadlines. Nevertheless, until now all applicants have received notice of acceptance (or not) at the same time, the Acceptance Date, which this year is Sunday, May 3.

In an effort to allow many families more time to make travel plans, this year acceptances will be announced progressively over the course of the application period. Acceptances (or not) for applicants from each affiliate will be emailed 14 calendar days after the Application Deadline for that affiliate, or the Final Acceptance Date, whichever comes earlier.

Some Application Fees Refundable

Application Fees will be refunded for rejected applications from alternates. In 2008, the accounting office for the California Sciencce Center instructed the Fair that no application fees would be refunded, regardless of whether or not the affected students had been accepted. In this sense the Application Fee was truly applied to the Application and not to the student's participation. In response the Fair changed the requirements of the application process for alternates, so that only students with first priority from the affiliates ("qualified projects") then had to pay the Application Fee before being considered for acceptance. Since Application Fees are nonrefundable, alternates who paid the Application Fee but were not accepted lost their money.

The Fair is continuing the same policy as last year regarding the differing requirements for qualified vs. alternate projects to submit the Application Fee up front. However, alternates who mistakenly pay an Application Fee and are not accepted will now receive a refund of the Application Fee. Nevertheless, this fee is still, generally speaking, nonrefundable. Students who are accepted but later withdraw, and students whose applications are rejected owing to violation of rules of the Fair will not be eligible for a refund.

As always, the Fair will continue to refund duplicate payments. Some students will have their Application Fees paid by their school, fair, or other organization. Nevertheless, such students, if qualified, are still required to pay the Application Fee by their Application Fee Deadline, and are advised to submit their own payment (which eventually will be “the duplicate payment”) if the organization paying for them cannot be guaranteed of meeting that deadline. If such students do not meet their Application Fee Deadline, their applications are in danger of being rejected in favor of other students (qualified or alternate) from their Fair if their Fair's allocation to CSSF is filled. Students whose Application Fee is paid twice, will have their personal payment refunded, and the payment by the school, fair, or other organization credited to their application.

Fair Venue

This year the Fair is returning to the California Science Center. Owing to space limitations, however, only the Junior Division project displays will be placed in the main Science Center building. Senior Division projects will be on display in the Wallis Annenberg Building, less than a hundred yards to the northeast of the mail building.

In consequence of this change, several aspects of the Fair's operation are changed from last year:

  1. All ceremonies will be held in the Wallis Annenberg Building. This includes the Keynote Address on Monday night, Student Orientation on Tuesday morning, and the Awards Ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
  2. There will be separate Awards Ceremonies for the two divisions, unlike last year with a single ceremony for all projects. See below.
  3. Removal of project displays will only be permitted at specific times which are different between the two divisions. See below. Consequently, all travel plans should be made in recognition of the actual project removal time for all students in the traveling party.

Separate Awards Ceremonies/ Project Removal Times

Owing to limitations of space, the traditional single Awards Ceremony at the end of the Fair will be split into two, one for each division, Junior and Senior. The Awards Ceremonies will be held in the Wallis Annenberg Building, familiar to returning participants from 2007. This building is also the site of the Keynote and Student Orientation Ceremonies.

Schedule of Awards and Removal Times
(Subject to change)
Division Awards Ceremony Project Removal
Start Time End Time
Senior Division 4:00 pm 5:00 pm 3:30 - 4:00 pm
Junior Division 5:30 pm 6:30 pm 3:30 - 5:00 pm

Because the Senior Division projects are located next to the Awards Ceremonies, these projects must be removed before the first Awards Ceremony. Participants should be aware that some judging operations will be continuing until 3:30 pm, so no projects in either building may be removed before that time. Owing to the separate Awards Ceremonies, separate times are provided for each division’s projects to be removed from the display areas, as described below:

Senior Division: 3:30 -4:00 pm (All projects located in the Wallis Annenberg Building)
Senior Division participants must remove their projects during the admittedly very short time interval 3:30 -4:00 pm before the Senior Division Awards Ceremony. Projects on display in one room intended for additional Awards Ceremony viewing will receive special instructions and may be removed starting at 3:00 pm. Senior Division projects remaining on display after the start of the Senior Division Awards Ceremony will be inaccessible behind locked doors and later discarded.
Junior Division: 3:30 - 5:00 pm (All projects located in the California Science Center main building)
The Fair will provide appropriate security for Junior Division project displays from the end of the judging interview period at 12:30 pm until 3:30 pm, at which time all Junior Division projects must be removed. Projects may be removed until the Science Center closes at 5:00 pm, which is also the start of the Junior Division Awards Ceremony. Projects remaining after this time will be discarded.

Category Definitions Revised

Category definitions have been revised for the 2009 Fair. The California State Science Fair annually reviews the category definitions and how the division of scientific topics across panels is working to the benefit (or not) of both students and judges. This year three new categories have been established in the Junior Division, several others have been realigned in both divisions, and two categories in the Senior Division have been consolidated. As always, there is no expectation that any affiliated fair should use the same categories as at CSSF. Each affiliate has its own unique requirements, and each affiliate should choose categories to meet its own needs.

For reference, here are the 2009 Category Definitions.

Project Allocations for 2009

The allocations to affiliated fairs of the number of projects which may be sent to CSSF have been determined. Beginning in 1998, the number of projects which each affiliated fair is allowed to qualify to CSSF has been defined as an explicit limit by CSSF, rather than loose limits determined by each fair independently. Based upon current available space, determined needs across the entire State, and discussions with our affiliates, most notably all of those participating in recent County Coordinators Conferences, here are the allocations for 2009.

Category Award Structure

The category award structure revised in 2007 will be retained.

For several decades, Category Awards were named “First Place,” “Second Place,” “Third Place,” and “Honorable Mention.” The Honorable Mention award was distinguished both in name and by the fact that it received no cash award. Honorable Mentions received only a medallion which was presented on stage at the Awards Ceremony.

In 2007 two changes were made to this award structure:

It should be noted that the Fair's long-standing policy of recognizing one and only one project for each Category Award will be continued. In this context, Honorable Mentions are not considered “Category Awards.”

Application Procedure for Alternates Changed

While students identified as alternates have the same Submission Deadline as qualified projects, they should not pay their Application Fee until accepted. Many, if not most, students who are named as alternates from their affiliated fair to CSSF will have their applications rejected. In years prior to 2008 such students were required to pay their application fee by the same Application Fee Deadline as qualified projects. However, in consequence of the nonrefundable nature of the application fee, students who are identified as alternates are now advised not to pay their Application Fee at the time of application, but instead should wait until they are accepted by CSSF. Alternates who do pay their application fee do not enjoy any extra priority in acceptance. Priority among alternates is established by the affiliated fair and is not changed by CSSF.

Qualified projects are required to meet their Application Fee Deadline in order to certify that they will attend CSSF if accepted. In this respect, alternates have a simpler application procedure, but this is in recognition of the likelihood that their applications may not be accepted.

See also: Changes in recent years: 2008 , 2007 , 2006 , 2005 , 2004 , 2003 , 2002 , 2001 , 2000 , 1999 , 1998 , 1997 .

Last updated: Wed Mar 11 15:43:10 PDT 2009
California State Science Fair / Changes for 2009 /