High School Fairs

Rules & Guidelines

Explore the most recent High School Manual for requirements, regulations and expectations for the fair.

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Project Requirements:

Please see manual for more details

1.

A project may include no more than 12 months of continuous research and may not include research performed before January of the year prior to the fair.

2.

Individual projects must be entirely the work of the individual student and team projects (up to 3) must be entirely the work of the team.

3.

Required forms must be submitted to the Regional Scientific Review Committee for approval BEFORE starting experimentation.

4.

Students are required to keep a bound or digital notebook with original and dated entries to record each step taking in the development of the project.

5.

Students must have a final lab report, complete with works cited. This should include all the steps of the scientific method or the engineering design process.

6.

Students must have a visual display prepared for presentation at the Fair. Consult the manual for restrictions on materials for the Fair presentation and venue.

The Judging Experience

Judges (professionals and academics in STEM) volunteer their time to review student projects. Judge scores are based on a student’s understanding of their project, not it’s sophistication. Review the Judges Rubric with your students to help them prepare for the experience.

View Judging Rubric »

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is pre-approval?

    Students who engage in research in the following categories MUST get prior approval before starting experimentation. This prior approval MUST come from the Regional High School Scientific Review Committee (SRC) for projects that involve

    • Human participants/subjects
    • Hazardous or toxic chemicals or activities
    • Vertebrate Animal projects
    • Potentially hazardous biological agents
    • Research performed in an industrial/institutional setting
  • What are the forms I may need to submit for review and approval?

    The following forms are required:

    1. Checklist for Adult Sponsor (1), Student Checklist (1A), Research Plan/ Project Summary, and Approval Form (1B)
    2. Regulated Research Institution Form (1C), when applicable
    3. Qualified Scientist Form (2), when applicable
    4. Risk Assessment (3), when applicable
    5. Human Subjects (4), when applicable
    6. Vertebrate Animal (5A, 5B), when applicable
    7. PHBA Risk Assessment Form (6A), when applicable
    8. Human and Vertebrate Animal Tissue Form (6B), for all studies involving tissues and body fluids
    9. Continuation Form (7), for projects that build on earlier projects
  • What is a continuation project and should I have a form 7?

    For students who have participated in a project in past years, please consider if you need form 7 completed. It’s full title is “Continuation/Research Progression Project”. Sometimes this form is needed even if this year’s project is distinct from last years.  This form is designed to clearly outline those differences.  It is not saying that you are just continuing to work on the same old project, but rather you have progressed forward with your research which is a valuable experience in STEM.  This excerpt from page 8 of the manual says it well,:

    “As in the professional world, research projects may build on work performed previously. A valid continuation project is a sound scientific endeavor. … These projects must document that the additional research is a substantive expansion from prior work (e.g., testing a new variable or new line of investigation).”

  • What are the pathways to MSEF?

    The two pathways for student participation at the State Fair: Regional Fair Promotion and Direct Entry

    All student projects must go through the Regional Fair approval systems before the regional fair is held to participate in either pathway.

    1. Regional Fair Promotion: Through competition at a Regional Fair, top scoring projects are awarded eligibility to enter the statewide Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair (MSEF) as well as the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)
      • This is the primary pathway for State Fair participation. Through the Regional Science Fairs, students have the advantage of gaining feedback from expert judges on how to improve their projects and presentation, enabling students to refine their work before the statewide Science Fair.
      • Due to the timing of the Fairs it is not possible to qualify for ISEF at the statewide fair. However, if you become a delegate for ISEF you must still attend MSEF.
      • Students must accept this award and confirm their participation in the statewide within 5 days of receiving the award or forfeit their chance to participate.
    1. Direct Entry: In addition to projects awarded entry in the statewide fair, each school may send up to two additional student projects (either individual or team projects).
      • To qualify for direct entry, a student must already have their project approved by the Regional SRC before the regional fair is held. This includes any pre-approvals that were required BEFORE experimentation if the project involved any of the restricted areas of research.  If these steps were not taken, the project is not eligible for statewide fair participation.
      • Students must be signed up through their school to participate. Direct entry names/projects must be provided and confirmed by the school to MSEF at de@scifair.com within 5 school days after the date of your regional fair award ceremony. Review these dates at the regional zFairs site. Links can be found here.
  • What are the materials required to be judged at MSEF?
    • The following items are required for State Science & Engineering Fair participation:
      • Display Board/Slide Presentation
      • Final Lab or Project Report (also called Research Paper)
      • Lab or Project Notebook
      • Prepared Oral Presentation
    • Your profile should already have your:
      • Research Plan
      • Project Abstract
      • Approvals on required forms
  • What are the components I should include in my display/presentation slides?

    Your presentation should tell the story of your project so that it explains your project and shows your understanding and interest in your work. This is a recommended format. 

    • Intro
    • Methods and Materials (with photos)
    • Conclusion
    • Background
    • Results (with visuals)
    • Bibliography/Works Cited
  • What are the guidelines for a Final Report?

    There are several accepted formats for a Final Report, also called a Research Paper or a Lab Report. This is one recommendation:

    Science Research

    • Table of Contents
    • Background
    • Hypothesis
    • Methods and Materials
    • Data Tables
    • Discussion and Analysis
    • Conclusions
    • Works Cited

    Engineering

    • Table of Contents
    • Background
    • Statement of Purpose
    • Methods and Materials
    • Data or Results
    • Discussion and Analysis
    • Conclusion
    • Works Cited
  • What are the guidelines for Lab Notebooks?

    Your lab notebook should be worked on throughout the duration of your project.  This is the ‘journal’ of your work. These handbooks have helpful sections for components of your project.

    Science Research Process Handbook

    Engineering Design Process Handbook

  • Can I update my project between the Regional and the State Fair?

    You can update your project, but you cannot add any new procedures. You can repeat trials, but not try to test something in a new way. You must stay consistent with your research plan that was reviewed and approved by the SRC committees. Fixing up slides and graphs is fine and even encouraged!

    You should not rename your project or change categories for judging after the Regional Fair.

  • What Rubrics are used to judge? (for reference only)

    Click HERE for a combined rubric for Science, Engineering and Math Projects

  • How do we avoid conflicts with SAT or AP exams?

    MSEF realizes that there may be conflicts with the scheduling of SAT and AP exams and MSEF events. However, please note that science fair students have the option to schedule these exams without conflict. Please reach out to MSEF at info@scifair.com with questions.

    Learn More about the policy for in-person Fair years

  • Why are there two sets of safety guidelines?

    One set of safety guidelines refers to the time during which you are doing your experiment. The other set of safety guidelines refers to what you can bring the day of the science fair as part of your project display. Some of the guidelines overlap, but there are differences, so be sure to look at both sets. Consult the manual for more information. On the day of the science fair, there will be safety checks of all projects before the judging takes place.

  • What is ISEF?

    ISEF, (International Science and Engineering Fair) is a national competition for top high school winners from the Regional Fairs. MSEF informs students of their selection and provides all necessary information for participation. Due to the timing of the Fairs, it is not possible to qualify for ISEF at the statewide fair.

MSEF is here for you every step of the journey

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