Judging can affect students profoundly, sometimes altering their career choices...
Comments from past OCSEF judges:
“Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in this event as a judge. I had a great time reading the abstracts and was thrilled to see the projects as well as speak to the students. I would definitely be interested in joining you next year so do keep me in mind.”
“I thank you for a wonderful day! I had a great time meeting and working with all of my fellow judges.”
“I am greatly encouraged to see such enthusiasm for science and engineering with these youngsters. They are our future, the best and the brightest. I will indeed be a part of the next cycle as a judge.”
For more information about applying to become a judge for the Orange County Science & Engineering Fair, please contact our Director of Judging.
Why be a judge?
The Orange County Science & Engineering Fair (OCSEF) is an annual event organized to encourage the youth of our county to learn about science and to consider a career in science or engineering. You will play a critical role in the science fair experience. Your judging can affect students profoundly, sometimes altering their career choices and almost always influencing their attitudes toward science and technology.
Who should apply to be a judge?
Scientists, engineers, educators, whether currently working or retired, who are interested in encouraging the young people of Orange County to consider a career in science or engineering.
What do judges do?
Judges work in a team with others, some of whom have had previous experience as science fair judges. You evaluate the projects and interview students on the day of the fair. You then decide, as a team, which projects merit receiving awards in their category.
When and where is judging?
Judges meet with students at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on the date shown on the Dates & Timeline. Doors open at 7:00 am. We ask judges to arrive by 7:30 am for orientation. Judges have about an hour to review the projects and research reports before the first group of students arrive at 9:00 am. Follow-up deliberations to decide on awards generally conclude by 4:30 pm. We provide a continental breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day.
How do I apply to be a judge?
Complete the On-Line Sign-Up Form . Please contact our Director of Judging if you have any questions or difficulty submitting the on-line form.
The Role of Judging Captains
Judging Captains coordinate the activities of the judges assigned to their judging category. This includes assigning judges to teams, reviewing the judging objectives and policies for evaluating projects, making sure that each student receives the participation certificate and is interviewed by as many judging teams as possible during the hour the student is on the exhibit floor, and leading the deliberations on awards at the end of the day.
We ask Judging Captains to be our “eyes and ears” for projects that are worthy of the Sweepstakes Prize (Jr. and Sr.) and for meritorious projects for Special Awards. They maintain contact with the Sweepstakes Award judges and the Director of Special Awards throughout the day to identify projects that are worthy of consideration.
At the end of the day, Judging Captains verify the awards for their category and submit the Awards List to the Director of Judging.
Guidelines and Criteria
The success of a science fair depends on its judges. When students and teachers return year after year, it is because they feel the judging is consistent and based on the appropriate criteria. The success and growth of our fair and the influence it has on students and teachers in Orange County are a reflection of the outstanding job you perform.
As a judge at the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) you will do much more than choose the best projects. Your comments may encourage students to select (or not select) a career in science. The attitude toward science and scientists these youngsters have as adults may be the result of the positive (or negative) experience they have at the Science Fair.
Please try to help these students look their best. We are more interested in rewarding the good work they have done than in showing them ALL the improvements they could have made.
It may be necessary for you to judge in an area outside your field of expertise, although we will try to assign you to a team in your preferred category. There are generally three reasons why we might need you to change to another category.
We intend to team new judges with experienced judges. If you find that your team is composed of all new judges, please let us know.
The Board of Directors suggests you take a team approach to judging. We recommend that you look over the projects in your category and scan the journals of “good” projects before 9:00 a.m. When students arrive for their interviews consider breaking into groups of two to interview them. (The students will be more relaxed with only two judges evaluating them and they will have several chances to explain what they have done.) Your Judging Captain will make sure that you are given a schedule each hour so that every student receives two or more interviews during the hour they are on the floor.
If possible, regroup and discuss the projects after about 35 minutes. Then, return to the top project candidates if necessary. For larger categories where we don't have enough judges, this approach is essential. It will allow judges to spread themselves out and students will have several opportunities to speak to small groups of judges. Then the whole group of judges can review the top candidates (who will now be experienced presenters!) Of course, there is no one best approach. Each team should choose the method that is best for their situation.
Finally, meet with your Captain as a group and choose the winners at the end of the day.
There are several judges responsible for choosing Sweepstakes and other “special” awards. Since they can't review all of the projects and can't interview all of the students, they will depend on your suggestions. If you feel the best project(s) in your category is/are candidates for “best in the Fair,” please notify the Sweepstakes Judges immediately so they can interview the student before he/she leaves.
What to look for
You are the judge. Your team will select the best projects based on your combined knowledge and experience. Although there is absolutely no way to remove all subjectivity from this process, there must be some consensus in what we are looking for. Please consider the following:
Fairness suggests that you give each student about the same time and attention. So pace yourself, please. Depending on the number of students on the floor, plan on giving four – 15 minute interviews during the hour. After you give students a chance to tell you about their project, you may wish to ask questions such as these:
Look for questions you can ask the student about aspects of the project that interest you and that you are curious about. It helps them if they feel that they can teach you something that you want to know!
You may wish to suggest, perhaps by Socratic questioning, improvements students could make if they decide to work on their project further. We allow students to enter the same project in future Fairs if substantial additional work has been done on it. However, please emphasize what they did well, not their failures. Try to remember that most of their peers were “too busy” to do a science project! These projects represent the best from each school! For some, this Fair will simply allow them to find out what they need to do next year.
Consider sitting when you interview these youngsters. Many of them are small. Most of them are very nervous. Anything you can do to put them at ease will make the interview more meaningful for both you and them. Also, as mentioned before, small groups of judges are less intimidating than a convention!
Although communicating is an important element of science, please try to make all due allowance for the fact that English is a second language for some of our students. Some students may use an interpreter (provided by the student or his or her teacher or parents). Please do not downgrade them on that account.
Listed below are links to the scoring sheets used to judge projects: