Rules and Regulations

Project Regulations


The Orange County Science and Engineering Fair Board of Directors want all students to have the opportunity to compete fairly for all awards. The following regulations will keep projects uniform for judging and ensure that they abide by the laws of the State of California and the State of California Education Code. For these reasons, the following will be strictly enforced:


  1. The Orange County Science & Engineering Fair Board of Directors and the Orange County Fair & Exposition Center, or their representatives, reserve the right to not display any materials which might be offensive or pose a safety threat to fair participants or the general public, especially elementary school aged children who frequent the fair.
    • Any exhibit or part of an exhibit that, in the judgment of the OCSEF Board, has these potential issues may be removed from display.


  1. All projects must present either an experiment exemplifying scientific methodology or a project utilizing the engineering process.


  1. 6th-12th grade students attending an Orange County school (public or private, and including home-schools living in Orange County) may enter exhibits in the Fair.
    • Students in grades 9-12 are considered the Senior Division.
    • Students in grades 6-8 are considered the Junior Division.
    • All projects must be checked and approved by a sponsoring teacher or administrator from the school, or a member of the OCSEF Board of Directors.
    • If your school has a science fair, you must qualify through that fair in order to enter OCSEF.
    • Schools in districts having district-wide fairs participating in OCSEF must be selected through that fair in order to enter the OCSEF.
    • If your school has no school science fair or district science fair, up to 15 students from your school may participate in the OCSEF with the guidance of a teacher or authorized OCSEF board member.
    • Homeschoolers may be sponsored by a teacher, administrator, or OCSEF Board member.


  1. Only one project is allowed per student. Students may enter an individual project, or they may enter as part of a team project with 2 or 3 members total.
    • Team projects will be placed in the same categories as individual projects. Judges will have higher expectations for the originality, scientific value, and completeness of team projects done by 2 or 3 authors working together in comparison with the work done by one student.
    • All work on team projects must be acknowledged; all team members must be present at the judging interview to be considered for category awards.
    • Projects entered by an individual but discovered to have been done by a group will be disqualified.
    • Team projects with a partner from a region other than Orange County may choose to participate in the OCSEF or the other region's science fair (if their rules permit it), but not both.


  1. Students must complete OCSEF Certification Forms for prior approval BEFORE beginning any experimental work if they involve any of the following. Failure to do so may disqualify a student from entering the OCSEF.
    • Human Subjects (including projects surveying humans)
    • Vertebrate/human tissues (including bones, meat, fur, blood, eggs, blood agar, saliva etc.)
    • Hazardous Substances or Devices (including physical and chemical hazards, or hazardous organisms)
    • Nonhuman Vertebrate Animals (including any invasive work with vertebrates beyond observations in natural settings)
    • Potentially Hazardous Biological Agents (microorganisms, recombinant DNA (rDNA) technologies, or human or animal tissues, blood, or body fluids)
    • Students must submit their project plans and completed Certification Forms to the OCSEF Scientific Review Committee (SRC) before testing begins. 


  1. All projects involving nonhuman vertebrate animals must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification of Humane Treatment of Live Vertebrate Animals form.


  1. All projects involving human subjects must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification of Protection for Human Subjects Research.
    • The Certification of Protection for Human Subjects Research must be filled out and signed by the sponsoring teacher/advisors before the project is begun.
    • Copies of the completed certification form must be submitted with the registration material.
    • Human studies without this certification form will not be allowed in the Fair for exhibition or judging.


  1. All projects that involve the use of tissues from humans or vertebrates must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification of Vertebrate Tissue Sample Source form.
    • Students may not be involved in the direct acquisition of recombinant DNA, tissue, organs, or other body parts (including blood and meat) from human or vertebrate animals; they must be acquired by adults or from a commercial or medical source.
    • The Certification of Vertebrate Tissue Sample Source must be filled out and signed by the company, agency or person providing or buying the samples; it must be approved and signed by the sponsor/advisor before the project is begun.
    • Copies of the completed certification form must be submitted with the registration material.
    • Projects involving tissue studies without this certification will not be allowed in the fair for exhibition or judging.


  1. All projects that involve the use of potentially hazardous organisms, chemicals, substances, or devices (anything so labeled or which, if not handled properly, can cause injury) must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification of Hazard Control form..
    • The Certification of Hazards Control must be filled out and signed by the sponsoring teacher/advisor before the project is begun.
    • Teachers and students must carefully plan and follow safe procedures: explicit details about how and where experiments will be done must be listed on the certification form.
    • Copies of the completed Certification of Hazards Control must be submitted with the registration material.
    • Project work requiring certification includes: use of bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and molds; UV light exposure; use of controlled substances; use of hazardous chemicals; cultures in Petri dishes; equipment/devices that are potentially dangerous outside the student’s usual experience.
    • Appropriate safety precautions, including PPE (eye goggles, aprons, gloves, etc.) must be worn when hazards exist.
    • Culturing organisms in the home environment is prohibited.


  1. Students who perform an experiment as part of an industry, university, hospital or other institution other than their school must follow these guidelines:
    • A Certification of Regulated Research must be filled out and signed by the adult supervisor or principal investigator at that institution after experimentation has been completed.
    • Copies of the completed certification must be submitted with the registration materials.


  1. The maximum number of entries from a given school is 15 projects. District science fairs may enter up to 100 projects.
    • A school may exceed 15 projects if the projects are entered through its district fair.
    • A school may submit a written or online request to OCSEF for more than 15 projects and a district may submit a written request for more than 100 projects for consideration by the Board by the deadline listed on the OCSEF key date (See the OCSEF website for Key Dates).


  1. All students must register online at prior to the registration deadline in order to enter the fair. (See Key Dates  for due date.)


  1. The student is responsible for selecting an appropriate category in which to enter the project.
    • The Fair Board will review and may change category assignments, based on the reading of the submitted abstracts, to insure that projects with similar topics are placed in the same category.


  1. Maximum exhibit size is 32 inches wide by 15 inches feet deep by 6-1/2 feet tall.
    • The exhibit – including the display board – must be able to be placed on the designated table space, and all materials must fit within that space.
    • Oversized exhibits will not be eligible to be judged for awards, and may not be able to be displayed.
    • Other material and equipment may be brought during the student interview and then removed.


  1. Students must take full responsibility for the safety of all parts of their exhibits.
    • Keep in mind that the purpose of the display is to communicate the experimentation done, but not necessarily to provide a live demonstration of the experimentation. Consider use of photographs and drawings.
    • Valuable material and equipment should be simulated or pictured; they may be brought for demonstration during judging and then removed. (No gas or water outlets are provided; electrical outlets are within 6 feet if requested on student’s application).
    • No plants, food, chemicals, liquids (including water), hazardous materials or equipment, or unattached items may be on display.
    • Containers for high-pressure gases must be empty. No open flames are allowed.
    • Toxic, hazardous, combustible, and cryogenic materials are prohibited.
    • All parts of the exhibit should be securely attached to the display board.


  1. Logbook, support documentation, and/or notebook must accompany and be securely attached to the exhibit with at least 3 feet of tether so they can be comfortably read by the judges.


  1. Exhibit display boards must be sturdy:
    • Exhibit boards must be constructed of rigid material or be reinforced with framing to a weight of at least 2 pounds.
    • Foam-core and other light-weight exhibit boards must be framed or weighted (at least 2 lbs) at the base to prevent them falling/ blowing over and thus endangering nearby exhibits. If this occurs, the exhibit will be removed.


  1. Exhibits involving electricity must be safely displayed:
    • Equipment must be designed for battery (student provided) operation or 110 volts AC and are limited to maximum power dissipation of 500 watts. If using 110 VAC, you must provide a 10 amp fuse or circuit breaker at the input to your circuit.
    • Electrical cords must be UL-approved (including adequate wire size and insulation), use 3-prong connectors, and be a minimum of 6 feet long to reach the available electrical sources in the exhibit hall.
    • Connections must be soldered or secured by UL-approved fasteners. Open knife switches or doorbell type push button switches are not permitted for circuits using above 20 volts.
    • Lasers may be displayed but not operated at any time.
    • No equipment that creates or uses electrical energy may be operated during the OCSEF except during the student’s judging period. Connections to electrical power sources must be disconnected when the student is not present to monitor the exhibit.


  1. All exhibits must adhere to all county, state and federal laws and regulations regarding wiring, toxicity, fire hazard, and general safety.


  1. The display of bacterial cultures and live or dead vertebrates, invertebrates, plants or microorganisms or their parts, is not permitted (e.g. teeth, hair, fur, feathers).
    • Only illustrations or photographs of microorganisms and animals are permitted.


  1. Exhibits may not display photographs of procedures detrimental to the health and well-being of vertebrate animals or humans. Performance of surgical or medical procedures may not be shown.


  1. Students must be present to speak with the Fair judges during Fair Week.
    • One hour judging interview times for the day of judging will be assigned (see OCSEF website “Dates and Timelines” for date of project judging).
    • Only students being interviewed will be allowed in the judging area with the projects on the day of judging.
    • Parents or teachers must remain in the waiting area.


  1. A project entered into the Fair must remain at the Fair from Registration / Set-Up until the designated pickup times. (see OCSEF website “Schedule of Fair Week Events”)
    • All projects must be set up and picked up only during designated hours.
    • Projects may not be picked up before the designated time.
    • Projects not picked up within the designated hours must be discarded, as no storage is available.