JUDGING PROCESS AT ACSEF
Dr. Paul MirkarimiACSEF Judging Coordinator, Materials Scientist - Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
We are developing an innovative method to judge projects that we think could someday serve as a model for science fairs across the world. Taking the California State Science Fair as an example, which I attended last year as a judge, each judging category team sends a judge to the caucus and that judge gets up and speaks for 3-4 minutes on the top project from their category, with a minute or so for questions. Then at the end the judges vote on the top projects without having seen the projects or the opportunity to interview the students. At the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), which I attended this year as well as past years as a judge, it is done a little differently, but in the end the vast majority of judges are also voting on the top projects without having been able to view the projects or interview the students.
At ACSEF the Round One judging for Special Awards, 1st through 3rd and honorable mention is similar to a number of science fairs. Afterwards the ACSEF judging teams submit their choices for the awards within their categories (of which there may be multiples per award/per category). They also submit their top projects and then four project lists are compiled; the Participants on the lists remain for Round Two judging. For this round, four judging supergroups are formed; two for middle school and two for high school. These consist of one each for projects that are within the physical sciences and one each for life science related projects. Each judging supergroup has 30-40+ judges assigned to it and those judges interview EACH student within their supergroup. The 4 supergroups then caucus after the interviews and discuss/debate to determine the top awards (Grand Awards, Best in Category/CSSF Qualifiers, I-SWEEP and Broadcom Masters) from EACH supergroup. Each supergroup has a neutral non-judge moderator and with this system every judge has firsthand knowledge on the projects that they vote on, which we believe is a significant improvement in the judging of top projects that move on to the state, national and international competitions versus how it is commonly done in science fairs today.
We believe we can say the system appears to work! We did a survey of the judges (~100 responses) and 94% of them concurred that the supergroup system worked (35% rated it as “excellent”, 45% as “good” and 14% as “ok”). For the overall judging process/system and support at the fair 99% of the judges gave it a favorable response (46% excellent, 44% good, and 8% ok). So overall the judging component seemed to go well.
We are always in need of many more qualified judges especially as ACSEF’s participation grows each year. If you have an expertise within these areas *(see list) - Please contact me if you are interested in being a judge for the upcoming 2015 science fair at firstname.lastname@example.org
Judging Categories: Animal Science, Alternative Energy, Behavior/Social Science, Biological Science, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Medicine/Health, Physics, Plant Sciences.