Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

  1. Can I do an engineering project instead of a science project?

Absolutely!  In the last few years, the scope of the Science Fair has broadened into a STEM Fair which includes projects involving “Engineering and Technology”.   These projects involve design, manufacture, and operation of original and creative mechanisms and devices that involve scientific principles.  The judges will look at factors such as originality, model or prototype design, testing, and refinements.  Inventions are now included in this category.

  1. Do I have to submit an abstract?

No, an abstract is not required…it’s optional.  The reason we mention abstracts is that it helps the judges to better understand what you are doing prior to the event and allows them to ask better questions when they talk with you at the event.  It’s another way to communicate the work you have done.

  1. Do I have to be present at the afternoon judging session? (Time will be announced)

Again, this is optional.  However, judges enjoy the opportunity to ask questions and to hear your perspective on your work.  The judges like to hear about the “messy” part of experimentation and building – “what didn’t work” and “what you want to try next time” can be the best part of the scientific learning process.  We enthusiastically recommend that someone from your Team be there to discuss the poster.

  1. How many people will win?

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams will be selected for each grade, provided that there are a sufficient number of entries in each grade level.  However, up to 14 teams total will be selected to attend the San Mateo Science Fair.  4th and 5th graders however, cannot compete in the San Mateo County STEM Fair, so only teams in 6th, 7th and 8th grades will be chosen to continue on to the County Competition.

  1. Will there be prizes for the winners?

Everyone who enters will get a certificate, and the grade winners will get ribbons or awards.

  1. How are the presentations scored?

Judges score on three main criteria.  The scores are not made public and are tabulated to establish top 3 places and honorable mentions to move on to the County STEM Fair.

  • Content/Organization/Skills (45 points): Is the problem clearly stated? Is there adequate background material?  Is the hypothesis clear?  Were the right experiments performed?  Is the analysis correct?
  • Creativity/Complexity/Understanding (40 points): Is the problem particularly unique or creative?  Is there novelty in the way the experiment was performed?  Do the authors clearly understand what they did and how it can be extended?
  • Appearance (15 points): Is the work well documented and the explanations clear?
  1. What if my parents complain that I am making too much of a mess?

Tell then it is all in the interest of STEM learning!  (and then do a good job of cleaning up)