The Arizona Science and Engineering Fair is currently recruiting Judges for AzSEF. It is easy to sign up for an event that you will find very rewarding.
You don’t have to be a scientist or engineer to be a judge! All we ask is that you have at least two years of college and the desire to encourage students in their quest for knowledge. When you register you can choose which division (Elementary, Jr. High, or High School) you want to judge in and rate the categories within that division you would prefer to judge.
This is a one-day event held at the Phoenix Convention Center, check our schedule or events for times and details. Approximately two weeks before the fair you will receive a packet with judging instructions, score sheets and project criteria. In addition, you will receive a Judges shirt that we ask you to wear at the event. The day begins with a full breakfast beginning at 8AM followed with a 45 minute overview of assignments and time for Q&A.
During the judging process you will be assigned to a team from which each team member individually interviews the same students. Once each member has interviewed all the assigned projects the team determines what level of awards they wish to provide to the students they judged. Because we are asking you to commit to a full day (7AM – 5PM) we will ensure that there is adequate nutrition and beverages throughout the day including a full lunch, and refreshments throughout the day.
We average around 90% retention in judges each year. Last year we had 400 judges but with the growth of the fair this year we need 600 judges, so we are counting on you to sign up. Please also feel free to share this opportunity with your friends and co-workers.
Judging science fair projects
You will be judging for first, second, third and fourth places in your assigned category(s) in either the high school, junior high or elementary school levels. You will be part of a team of 3 or more Judges, this way no one individual determines who receives awards. Each team member will judge each project independently. Once each member has interviewed each assigned student project you will convene as a team to determine awards and assess a mean score for each project based on your individual ratings. The “final” (Mean) scores and judging sheets will then be given to the identified AzSEF staff.
This is not a competition; you have the freedom to determine awards based on the level of effort of the individual student. Projects are assigned based on school achievement levels as posted at the Arizona Department of Education web site. In other words, if your assignments are in 8th grade Physics then the projects you are judging are all from schools at the same achievement level.
Depending on the number of projects in each category, some of you may be judging outside of your selected areas. Please don’t be alarmed, as a team you will have someone who is an ‘expert’ in each category area you may be judging.
Some of you may also be assigned to judge a sponsored award. The criteria for these awards will be provided to you and sponsor award judges are also teams.
As an AzSEF judge you are representing your organization and its interest in our youth. Your presence makes the students aware of your profession and the opportunities in your organization for science, math, engineering and technology careers. Feel free to leave any information of your organization with students.
Judging protocol (PDF)
Leave every student with a positive attitude about his/her project and the AzSEF.
Talk to each participant; that's the only way to determine how involved he/she is in the project. Don’t be overly impressed with exhibits that look professionally done - they probably are. Instead, concentrate on the quality of the student’s work, and how well the student understands the project and area of study.
Remember: A valid science fair project may have a hypothesis that has been rejected. (If scientists got it right the first time, we wouldn't call it research).
Don't diminish a student's project by asking questions like "Why did you do this project-what use is it?" A valid science project doesn't have to have practical applications.
Time saving tip: Time is dear for judging and little time is allocated for interviewing students. The closed judging session allows you to become acquainted with the projects and to form questions that relate to the students research. Because time is a factor, do not feel obligated to devote extended time to students who do not provide open dialog regarding their research. Interviews are part of the learning experience and students who are less skilled should be encouraged but you should not take time away from other students who are more forth coming with information. At the same time, beware of students who are overly active in discussion of their project and the time they use.
For those of you who are experiencing interaction with American Indian students for the first time please be aware that they may not look directly at you in the interview. Culturally, respect is shown by turning their ear towards you to show they are listening and looking down is a sign of respect. I will enlighten all of you to other culturally relevant things you should be aware of at the opening session.
What Makes a Good Science Fair Project?
A good Science Fair project involves the student in a journey of discovery, driven by curiosity. It typically starts with a student proposing a question or hypothesis, and doing some background research. The student then develops an experimental apparatus or procedure that will produce data, from which the student can draw conclusions to prove (or disprove) the hypothesis, or answer the question.
A good hypothesis typically takes the form of "If I do this, then that should happen." A question typically takes the form of "Can I improve results by doing this?” or "If I try different ways of accomplishing something, which produces the best results?" An example of a poor question is "If I do that, what happens?” A good Science Fair Project directs the student's efforts toward a particular result or expectation; undirected experimentation just to find out what happens is play, not science (although notable discoveries have been made in this manner, they are notable because they were "accidents").
After selection of a hypothesis, the most important parts of the scientific process are to:
Conduct background research
Develop an experimental apparatus or procedure to investigate the hypothesis or question
Operate the apparatus or conduct the procedure to collect experimental data
Perform iterations of data collection
Reduce or analyze the experimental data
Arrive at conclusions
The final step before coming to the Science Fair is to prepare a display and rehearse (but not memorize!) an explanation of how the display shows the means for conducting the experiment, developing the results, and arriving at the conclusions.
Students are advised that getting the right answer is NOT the purpose of a Science Fair project. It is the intent of a Science Fair project that you go through the process of asking questions and performing experiments in an attempt to find answers. Making the attempt without answering the question still satisfies the intent of your discovering knowledge on your own. At the Science Fair, the judges appreciate a display that clearly shows the intent and results of experimentation, and a presentation that concisely describes what was done and what was concluded. The judges want to feel that you are familiar enough with your project to discuss it comfortably and answer questions about it. Memorized speeches or rambling descriptions of minutiae (trivial details) are frustrating to judges, who need to be able to pose appropriate questions in order to thoroughly understand the project. If you work on a team project, the judges will expect more substantial science in your project, and every team member should be able to represent the project.
Teachers and Parents are advised to encourage students to develop a genuine interest in their projects. Judges will occasionally ask students why they chose to do a particular project and it usually turns out that students who are motivated and inspired by their curiosity about what they are investigating do the best work. Students who developed a project simply because you expected them to do so will generally produce mediocre results.
Judges are advised that students are expected to have a thorough understanding of the work that they have done. The students must know why the experiments they have assembled and operated can provide the answers they seek. They must correctly interpret the data they have collected. As judges, you should expect a logical answer to any of your questions about the technical terms they use or the equipment they have employed. Some students will attempt to accomplish research that is beyond their understanding, skills, or the capability of their equipment; it is preferable that they complete projects they have the ability to thoroughly grasp.
Some types of poor attempts at Science Fair projects are relatively easy to identify. In order to maintain the integrity and excellence of projects entered in the AISEF, it is preferred that you NOT recognize the following types of projects with awards:
Artwork, photographs, or replicas (physical or computer-generated) that illustrate concepts but were not used or are not useful as experimental apparatus to collect comparative data; depictions of known scientific concepts are in this category
Experiments that indicate the students have not done rudimentary background research (e.g., they could have seen the experiment described in a textbook)
Displays of collections of things (unless the collections are used for comparative research that leads to scientific conclusions)
Experiments that merely find out "What happens if I do this?” without having a scientific reason for performing the procedure
Pontification of theories with no credible attempt at proof (e.g., using literature search of quotes to provide evidence for the theory)
Experiments that present results without analyses that predict the results, quantify results, show why those results occurred, or explain how they occurred
Experiments that do not check data points for repeatability or resolve widely divergent results
Experiments using apparatus so crude that measurements could not be realistically acquired to show the intended results
This guide was written principally by Anita Gale with assistance from the California State Science Fair Judging Policy Advisory Committee.
Judging criteria (PDF)
1. SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION
· The study was well thought out and the student showed initiative in thought and design.
· The purpose for doing the study was well defined.
· The scientific literature (background information was examined).
· A logical hypothesis was developed for this study.
· The data collected relate to the hypothesis and supports conclusion.
· The conclusion follows logically.
· The data log provides evidence of student work and commitment throughout.
· The student collected all data available.
· The student identified all the controls.
· The sample sizes and population sources were carefully chosen.
· The variables of each experiment were clearly defined.
· Replications and duplications were utilized.
· The student anticipated the problems encountered.
· The student related the work to that reported in the literature.
· The data were collected in quantitative units.
· Several experiments were done; not just one.
· The study was completed or brought to a logical stopping place.
· The data were thoroughly analyzed.
· The experimental protocols were handled with skill.
· The experiments were designed with care and anticipation.
· Data measurements were done precisely.
· The study was skillfully designed and was not too complicated.
· Technical problems were overcome and not merely avoided.
· A detailed notebook and log were kept.
· This study was the student's and excessive help was not utilized.
4. CREATIVE ABILITY/ORIGINALITY
· There was a question asked and the answer was not originally known.
· The approach to answering the question was creative.
· The creativity of the study was within the creative ability of the student.
· Data is originally presented.
· The student utilized the scientific method in experimentation rather than only descriptions and observations.
· The display is creative.
· The student is able to explain what was done.
· The student clearly understands the research.
· The student understands the meaning of the results obtained. The student understands where this research can lead in the future.
· The student understands how this study can be improved.
· It is clear to the student whether the data support or fail to support the hypothesis.