Instructions for Judges

The success of any science day depends on the attitude and conduct of the judges. As such, it is vital that each judge thoroughly understands his or her duties and obligations, has complete knowledge of all requirements and maintains genuine interest in the well being, education and guidance of the participants. Science day events are for young people to show what they have learned and what they are capable of and it is the duty of the judges to encourage such growth.

During judging periods, students will have the opportunity to present their projects to two judges (one of whom should be a K-12 teacher, if possible). Judges must score presentations independently of one another and must not reveal scores to the other judge(s) or to students. Only science day officials may inform students of their scores or ratings after judging.

Interacting with Students

When interacting with students, judges should:

  • Introduce themselves and attempt to establish friendly rapport to help reduce tension
  • Discuss the presentation with the student
  • Ask the student to give their oral presentation of the project
  • Ask the student questions about their work on the specific problem they investigated. Questions should: 
    • Be asked after the presentation has concluded
    • Fall within the discipline or subject matter of the project
    • Cover specific aspects of the project, such as materials, tools and terms used, methods of construction, sources of information and the amount and type(s) of assistance used throughout the project
    • Be appropriate for the student’s level of learning
  • Take an active interest in the presentation and during questioning. Silence may be interpreted as disinterest or boredom, which can have a discouraging effect on the student.
  • Put students at ease, especially if they appear nervous during questioning.
Scoring Presentations

When scoring presentations, judges should:

  • Examine each student’s abstract and research paper to determine their quality. Checking references will assist in making a fair determination of the scope and depth of the research performed. The quantity and quality of the references should be taken into account to evaluate the student’s research methodology.
  • Determine the span of sustained interest in the particular field of science, as well as the approximate amount of time spent in developing the project. Some premium should be granted for extended interest and efforts to encourage a high level of persistence.
  • Note the number of subjects or specimens used. Is the number sufficient enough to generalize to the larger group that the sample is intended to represent?
  • Consider the age and grade level of the student
  • Calculate scores at a considerable distance from the participant, since disclosure of scores is delayed until judging is completed. Scores should be calculated and never rushed.
  • Include comments indicating the reason for the rating and make suggestions for improvement on the scorecard. Scorecards will be returned to students after the event has concluded.
Judging Ethics

When judging projects, judges must:

  • Have no prior involvement with the project
  • Adhere to Ohio Academy of Science guidelines
  • Avoid discussion of ratings with others prior to public release
  • Listen carefully to complete presentations
  • Be exceptionally courteous to all students
  • Judge students against criteria, not against other students
  • Evaluate theoretical and applied projects without bias toward either
  • Provide written, constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement
  • Not photograph students or projects during the judging period.
  • Seek written permission from students to photograph them (and only before or after the judging period has concluded)
  • Return judging cards to science day officials if:
    • You know the student
    • The project is out of your area of expertise
    • There are language issues that impair communication between you and the student

Scores and Ratings

Scores are calculated based on judges’ evaluations of student presentations against specific criteria (provided below). Ratings are given based on scores achieved.

Following are explanations of the criteria on which the student’s project or exhibit will be judged.  The bullets do not have pre-determined numerical value.

Depth of Understanding
  • Adequate age-appropriate background research (journals, textbooks, websites, etc.) relevant to the project which provides the basis for the hypothesis and age-appropriate use of terms and principles
  • Supplements answers with relevant information, reflecting knowledge gained during the project.
  • Describes how the project applies to the student, the community and the natural world (i.e., the “why” would this project be important for people to know).
  • Age-appropriate exploration of science in subject, depth of investigation and/or sophistication of project.
Experimental Design
  • The project addresses a clear, focused problem or questions with a hypothesis that is testable using scientific methods. If it’s aMeta-Analysis project, then the hypothesis is testable using data from multiple peer-reviewed research papers. If it’s an Engineering Design project, it addresses a clear, focused engineering design problem or need; criteria for success are identified; preliminary designs prepared; a prototype is created and tested with results clearly communicated.
  • The project plan and data collection methodology identify variables and controls and are not a summary of already known science. If it’s an Engineering Design project, the student identifies and applies established engineering principles in their design.
  • Reproducible and sufficient data are collected. If it’s a Meta-Analysis project, enough scientific data is synthesized from other sources to address the question/problem. Data were collected using appropriate and safe scientific protocols. If it’s an Engineering Design project, the student used materials and processes effectively to correctly build a prototype or model.
  • Data are properly analyzed. Appropriate graphs and/or tables illustrate the data.  Statistics appropriate to the age of the student are correctly used. If it’s an Engineering Design project, sufficient testing of the prototype or model is completed; data is properly measured, presented and analyzed.
  • Includes a discussion of results and forms valid conclusions that are reached from the data obtained with sources of error identified. If it’s an Engineering Design project, the prototype successfully meets criteria that were established for the project.
Oral, Written and Visual Communication
  • Written: Final Research Report that includes relevant background information, research question and testable hypothesis, experimental design and procedures, data acquisition techniques, data analysis, conclusion and works cited. For Engineering Design projects, include an engineering design statement, design plan and discussion of prototype development and testing.
  • Oral: Correct and concise explanation of project, design and analysis.  Responses reflect accurate understanding of experimental results and limitations of, and/or impact of project.
  • Visual: Logical organization of material, neatly displayed, graphics and legends appropriate to project, easy to read and understand.  Photos and graphics cited.
Originality and Creativity

Project displays originality in concept, relative to grade level (i.e., not “cookbook”, not classroom lab, not a simple extension of “found” idea). The project is a new idea, concept, principle, insight or non-obvious approach. There is novel association or relationship of previous knowledge and particularly rigorous analysis that reveals previously unknown relations, etc.

Re-judging Criteria to be used at Local, District and State Science Days

Teachers promoting local student research projects and conducting local science fairs or science days leading to District Science Days and to State Science Day are expected to have their students follow the official Science Day standards outlined herein. Included in these standards are the following Re-judging Criteria. Teachers should use these criteria locally for both individual and team projects and at all District and State Science Days.

  • Two judges will evaluate each project for OAS ratings. 
  • If each judge grants a total score within any one rating category (Superior, Excellent or Good), that specific rating will be granted to the student, at which point no re-judging is permitted.
  • Re-judging is automatic if all three of the following conditions apply:
    • The judges’ final ratings are in different categories.
    • The average of the judges’ scores is in the lower category.
    • The judges differ in their total points by more than five points.

Contact Information

Jeffrey Weidenhamer
Jeffrey Weidenhamer, Ph.D.
Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
Director, Honors Program
Director, Mohican District Science Day
419 Kettering Science Center