Your support for student-led science & engineering projects

Participating in a science & engineering fair is an opportunity for students to guide their own long-term investigation on a topic they are passionate about.

Although this framework is based on the scientific method and engineering design process, an independent investigation is most successful when it engages in an iterative process with emphasis on reflection and revision.

Review the steps to get Science Fair Ready here.

Science Fair and Mass STE Practices:

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Independent student projects can be an interdisciplinary experience, combining skills from science, engineering, social studies, math, technology, and language arts. There is an opportunity for students to investigate questions or issues that are relevant to their local community.

Each student will have a unique experience during their project, and these personal journeys are an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. Completing an independent research project can build self-confidence and provide a sense of fulfillment.

Sign-up to be part of the free Science Fair Ready Network for access to special opportunities.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the Scientific Review Committee (SRC)?

    A Scientific Review Committee (SRC) is a group of qualified individuals that is responsible for evaluation of student research, certifications, research plans and exhibits for compliance with the rules, applicable laws and regulations at each level of science fair competition.

    ALL proposed research projects involving any of the Restricted Areas of Research (work at a Regulate Research Institution or Industrial Setting, with human subjects, with vertebrate animals, with potentially hazardous biological agents, or with any hazardous chemicals/activities/devices) must be reviewed and approved BEFORE experimentation begins.

    ALL projects, including those previously reviewed and approved by an SRC/IRB, must be reviewed, and approved by the SRC after experimentation and before competition in a Fair.

  • What is the Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

    An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that, according to federal regulations (45-CFR-46), must evaluate the potential physical and/or psychological risk of research involving humans. All proposed high school human research must be reviewed and approved by an IRB before experimentation begins. This includes review of any surveys or questionnaires to be used in a project. Federal regulations require local community involvement. Therefore, it is advisable that an IRB be established at the school level to evaluate human research projects.

    For most projects, an IRB is an informal collection of three individuals who can review projects at the localized setting (the school). The composition of this group may change for individual projects based on needed expertise. Students and teachers should work together to collect the signatures from the appropriate individuals.

  • What are the roles of adults that support Science Fair Ready students?

    To ensure student and community safety, as well as a fair and equitable process, there are several potential adult roles for student projects. At all levels, both Middle School and High School, all projects require the supervision and guidance of an Adult Sponsor. Any project in a Restricted Area of Research also requires a Designated Supervisor at the MS level, and a Qualified Scientist at the HS level. In many cases, the same adult can fill multiple roles. Review more detail here.


    Students must select a school and teacher to support their participation. In many cases, the teacher is also the Adult Sponsor on the program (see below).  The teacher is responsible for: 

    • Communicating with MSEF and Regional Fairs about students’ participation in the Fair
    • Monitoring any communication with the SRC for project approval follow-up as needed.
    • Making sure students have follow-through, communication and are aware of rules and expectations

    If students do not have support of a school, contact MSEF for more details.

    Adult Sponsor

    • This is often the teacher
    • May be parent and/or other professional scientist
    • Should be knowledgeable and familiar with area of students work and laws/regulations
    • Will work with student throughout process & provide oversight on required forms


    Qualified Scientist (High School only)

    • May be the same as the adult sponsor and/or teacher
    • Must have extensive expertise in area of research and laws/regulations
    • Required for ALL restricted areas of research
    • Responsible for training student on safety and procedures and the review of required forms


    Designated Supervisors

    • May also be the Adult Sponsor
    • Provides DIRECT supervision to student in restricted areas
    • Must be familiar with student project and area of research
    • Middle School: Form D
  • How can I keep track of all the different terms and vocabulary?

    In schools across the state, there is no standard convention for terms for the STEM process or for the Science & Engineering Fair project components.

    MSEF and collaborating teachers drafted a glossary of terms in that can be found in the Science Fair Ready framework. We hope this helps! Please share with students as needed.

  • Can students in an Out-of-School time program participate in the Science Fair?

    Students in grades 6-12 who take part in an independent science/engineering research project as part of an established out-of-school program in Massachusetts, e.g. Big Brothers/Big Sisters, are eligible to compete in the MSEF statewide high school Science & Engineering Fair as a direct entry through their established out-of-school program. The teacher/adult sponsor of record (as noted on MSEF Form 1) for the student(s) must be a representative of the out-of-school program.

  • What can I do if a student wants to participate and our school doesn’t have a program?

    Schools can still support student participation as an independent project, with the option of working with an outside mentor or supervisor. A teacher needs to review and sign all the necessary forms. Teacher will still need to set up accounts in zFairs before the student. Remember you will be responsible for understanding all the safety rules, deadlines and for making sure all required forms are submitted on time, and we’re here to help!

    Review the roles and responsibilities of adults here and reach out to MSEF at [email protected] and we will help connect you to resources and regional representation as needed.

  • Where do I go if I need help?

    MSEF staff are available for support and troubleshooting.  Please let us know if you have questions or would like assistance navigating the process. We can also connect you with your Regional representatives.

Explore the Fair process and how to participate

Fairs »