Judging FAQ – Science

How is judging done?

There are many answers to that question!


The hall is opened at 8:00 A.M. for judges to come in and preview your boards, look through notebooks, and read your abstract.

Category Awards Judging

A team of judges will be assigned to each Project Category. At least three judges will evaluate each project. These judges are instructed to select first, second, third and/or honorable mention awards from their assigned Project Category. Projects are judged with projects from the same Project Category and with similar Fields of Study.

Category judges use the judging criteria posted on our website to select approximately 40% of the projects in their group to win category awards (so 60% of projects do not win category awards).

Category judges are asked to initial the Project Placement Card at your display, so that we can check that at least three judges have evaluated each project.

Special Awards Judging

Special Awards are handled by the organization sponsoring each award. The criteria for the award are determined by the sponsoring organization, and they usually supply the judging team.

Some of these judging teams look at every project on the floor while others are interested only in projects having to do with one specific subject (for example: they may only want to look at projects related to water). If the topic of your project doesn’t match the criteria for their organization, the judges will not stop to discuss your project with you. The judges often use the titles of the projects to determine whether a project will be reviewed.

Grand Awards Judging

Grand Awards Judging includes projects from Junior and Senior Divisions that were nominated for Grand Awards consideration by Category Awards Judges. The Grand Awards Judging Team is separate from the Category Judging teams. Judges for the Grand Prizes have either a doctorate in their field or equivalent experience, the same requirements in place for Intel ISEF judges. Some of these judges also judge at SSEF of Florida or Intel ISEF.

In addition to identifying the Grand Awards winners in both divisions, the Grand Awards Judging Team selects the Best of Fair Senior Division (grades 9–12) projects that will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF).

State Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) of Florida Judging

The State Science and Engineering Fair (SSEF) of Florida Judging Team consists of a subcommittee of judges from the Grand Awards Judging Team. In determining whom to select, they factor into their decision the projects that were nominated for Grand Awards consideration by Category Awards Judges, as well as the overall scientific merit of the project.

Once the SSEF Judging Team selects the SSEF Finalists, they verify the students have won an award in the category judging. To be a SSEF qualified candidate, the student must be both selected by the SSEF Judging Team and have won a category award. Winning a first place category award does NOT guarantee selection for SSEF as a Finalist.

Are the students receiving 1st  place Category awards from the Thomas Alva Edison Kiwanis RSEF automatically qualified for SSEF of Florida or Intel ISEF (Senior Division ONLY)?

No, there is NOT necessarily a relationship between winning a 1st place category award, and winning a place at SSEF of Florida or Intel ISEF (Senior Division ONLY). Separate judging teams determine awarding of these 3 award types.  Category Awards are determined by Category Award Judges and there are over 100 winners at our competition. SSEF of Florida trip awards are given by a separate State Fair Judging Team who choose the top projects as described in the above paragraph.  The determination of how many projects can be sent to State Fair is determined by the SSEF of Florida Board of Directors. Intel ISEF trip awards are given by a separate group of Grand Awards Judges whose responsibility is to choose the top 4 high school projects in the whole fair.

Why aren’t results posted immediately?

Although most of the results are entered into our database within 24 hours after judging, we don’t post them to the website right away for a number of reasons:

A. The main reason is we want the results to be a surprise at the awards ceremony. Occasionally deadlines for subsequent fairs prevent us from doing that, so we contact the affected students before the awards ceremony, but as much as possible, we do want it to be a surprise.

B. Some special awards teams do some secondary judging or finalize the awards they are going to give after judging day, so we don’t even have the results that day.

C. Occasionally, we (or a judging team) discover that a student’s project was not really as presented and an award that was planned to be given has to be retracted—this may require consultation with the respective judging team and review of their notes to determine the next most meritorious project.

D. All of the people involved in the Thomas Alva Edison Kiwanis RSEF judging are volunteers. They spent many hours preparing for and administering the fair, and all are exhausted at the end of judging. We have found that a complete double-check of the awards data entry the following day is very important.

E. Occasionally something goes wrong. In case of a problem, we need enough time to properly correct whatever errors might occur.

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