Frequent Questions

Getting Started

What is a project?

A project is an extended investigation into a scientific question or an engineering design problem. The Fair accepts projects in a variety of science and engineering divisions. As you work on your project it is critical to keep careful notes on your process and results. You will use these when you create your display to bring to the Fair.

Is it OK to get help on a project?

Absolutely. It is incredibly uncommon for good research or design to come from completely individual effort. There are two types of help to consider. First, the Fair accepts projects entered by teams of two which provides an option to share the work. We also encourage students to work with a mentor to help structure their project and evaluate the results. If a mentor helps you with your project, be sure to acknowledge them on your display.

Can a team enter a project?

The Santa Barbara Science and Engineering Fair accepts entries from individuals or from teams of two. We do not accept projects from teams with more than two members. If you are working as part of a larger group on a complex project, consider breaking off smaller pieces as Fair entries.

Who can enter a project?

Students need to be between 7th and 12th grade and live or attend school in Santa Barbara County. Home-schooled students must live in Santa Barbara County and be between 12 and 18 years old.

How long does it take to complete a project?

This really depends on the project. A simple project may be possible in as little as a few weeks. Most projects will take longer than this. Some students work for several months on a project to prepare it for the Fair.

Are there any approvals that I need before starting?

If you plan to do a project that involves experiments on human subjects (including classmates or siblings) or on vertebrate animals (including pets or livestock), you need to submit a research proposal to either your school's or the fair's Science Review Committee. Human subjects research also requires that you prepare a letter of informed consent given to the participants.

The Day of the Fair

What should I bring?

There are a few essential things that you will need on the day of the Fair:

  • Your backboard/poster display including your process, analysis, and results

  • The lab book containing the details of your work throughout the project

  • Any additional items to help you explain your project to judges

  • A book to read in between interviews with judges

Is there anything I'm not allowed to display?

  • There are a few things that you must not bring to the Fair:

  • Living organisms of any variety (animals, plants, soil samples, fungi, etc.)

  • Living or dead microbial cultures (bacteria, yeast, etc.)

  • Toxic or flammable chemicals

  • Open flames or exposed, high-voltage electrical systems

  • Apparatus or displays that do not fit on the allocated table space (48" x 30" x 78")

  • Any component resting on the floor or under the table

How are projects judged?

The initial round of judging consists of interviews. Each project will be visited separately by at least two judges. These interviews last about 10 minutes and are intended to let the students showcase their understanding of their work. After the morning's interviews are completed, the highest ranked in each division will be reviewed without the students present to determine the winners of Best-in-Division and Best-in-Fair.

There are also several special awards available every year. In most cases, the donors send their own judges to identify the winners based on the criteria for the award in question.

Is it necessary to come to the Awards Ceremony?

You do not need to be present to win. However, it is a quick ceremony and we do have quite a few awards to hand out. Note: If you do not attend, your project still needs to stay up and on display through the end of the ceremony.