Science fair judges are asked to evaluate each student’s understanding, planning, execution, and presentation for projects entered in the Central Alberta Regional Science Fair. By listening to the student, asking questions, and examining the exhibit, log book and project summary, judges attempt to determine how well the student understands his/her topic, the degree of “scientific thought” that went into the project and the skill and thoroughness of the student in carrying out the project and in presenting his/her results.
1. Experiment – an investigation undertaken to test a specific hypothesis using experiments. The investigator attempts to control variables significant to the results.
2. Study – a collection and analysis of data to reveal evidence and evaluation of a fact or a situation of scientific interest. It could include a study of cause and effect, relationships involving ecological, social, political, or economic considerations.
3. Innovation – a project involving the development and evaluation of innovative devices, models, or techniques or approaches in fields such as technology, engineering, or computers (hardware or software).
The current judging form is divided into six sections, plus a separate page for written comments to the student(s). The first four sections deal with specific parts of the project. Points within these sections are awarded on a five point scale, with 3 being the “Average” and 5 “Exemplary”.
1. Oral presentation
By conducting an interview, judges attempt to evaluate how well the student understands his/her project. Students are expected to clearly and concisely introduce and explain what the project was designed to find out, how it was carried out, and what results and conclusions were obtained. The student should be able to give informed answers to judge’s questions and to demonstrate how the project fits into the wider topics of science. Judges are asked to note the appropriate use of scientific vocabulary.
The exhibit is the student’s primary means of presenting his/her findings to members of the public. As such, it should effectively communicate the purpose of the project, how the project was carried out, what the student found, and what conclusions or benefits resulted from the project. Design, organization, artistic merit, neatness, and adherence to the conventions of language are considered for their contribution to effective communication.
3. Log book
A project log book should provide a complete record of work done on the project – choosing of the topic, initial planning, background research, data collection, and the final formation of conclusion and planning the exhibit. Everything in the project – an appointment list of people interviewed, research notes, and data collected from an experiment should be recorded in the log. Good log books show evidence of being used – the pages are dog-eared and contain cross-outs, smudges and notes in the margins and data entries. Good log books do not exist as “good copies”, they are “first draft” documents.
4. Project summary
The project summary is a clear, concise presentation of the project, a “polished” document. It tells what the student attempted to find out. It describes how the project was carried out, and reports the major results and conclusions. The summary may be supplemented by photographs, illustrations, charts or graphs.
5. Scientific thought
This major portion of the project is evaluated somewhat differently from the sections above. All parts of the project – the oral interview, the exhibit, the log book, and summary – enter into the evaluation of scientific thought. Each level within each of the six aspects of “scientific thought” is characterized by a brief statement intended to indicate criteria for work that can be expected for that level of scientific thought. A low score in the categories within this section is not necessarily an indication of poor work; rather it is a recognition of the maturity level of the student’s thinking. Younger students usually score lower in this section. Characteristics and their descriptors (listed on the accompanying judging forms) differ for experimental, study and innovation projects.
In this last section, the project and techniques are judged for the appropriateness to the age level of the student, and on the overall impression that the project and its presentation have left with the judge.