At this particular fair, I was happy to learn that pairs of judges work together judging 4 posters in three hours. Since I'm in science fair mode, I thought this might be a good time to review some tips for all teachers and parents preparing your kids for any STEM research related competitions. Watch your use of fillers like "um," "ok," or "ah." Students usually try and fill empty space with these noises out of habit, but a longer silence is MUCH better than these meaningless fillers. In your conclusion be sure to make a definitive statement of the connection the data allows you to make. Admit weaknesses in the study (limitations) such as problems with the procedure, or how they were implemented, issues with tools or apparatus? If your hypothesis was unsupported (rejected), you need to really think about what that may mean. If you designed your experiment after doing careful research (as you should have) make sure the judges know this! It is conceivable that the judges ask a question that helps you to see a flaw in your study. I judged at the Northern Illinois Region 5 IJAS Science Fair held at Northern Illinois University.
Experienced judges are paired with less experienced judges, and tables are provided for judges to sit and talk with one another so that they can vet out any discrepancies in their rubric scores-each judge submits their own score sheet. It takes even experts a few moments to understand the structure of what the graphic is trying to portray. Another way of wording this is: "Did the change I make (independent variable) cause the effect (dependent variable) that I measured? Also make suggestions for how certainty could be improved for future studies on the same topic. Is is possible that your data is suggesting that there is NOT a relationship between your IV and DV? Bridge the gap between the background research you did on your topic and your own experiment. Share a bit of what you learned of what others have done, and how what you learned helped you develop the methods that you used in your experiment. After you have completed your oral presentations for the judges, now comes the scary part, the part you cannot control! I know this is hard during the question & answer time, but pulling your eyes away makes it seem as if you are unsure!
Even if you know you could have presented better, you probably did much better than you feel the moment it is over!
This is the first student research fair that I judged where I didn't have students competing.

I know how much support teachers and parents must provide to get a student this far in the competition. So today as a judge, I did my best to really listen to students and to review their presentation and papers carefully! The biggest problem is students looking down at their cards too much, or talking into their poster instead of to the judges! You spent all this time making the poster, make sure you point to specific parts of the poster when it will support what you are saying.
For example, don't vaguely point in the direction of your graphs and say, "My experimental group #2 did the best." Instead, point to the critical parts of the graph and use them to highlight differences between the groups. Why didn't I think of that?" Its ok if that is what is going on in your head, but what you say should be a little more polished, like this, "That is a great point.
Completing a research of this magnitude is not an easy task, and the journey is the goal, not the destination. However, I couldn't help but be nervous for the well-attired students I saw carrying oversized posters as I drove onto the campus. I also know how nervous students are to present their findings and be "judged" on their work.
I feel we worked well together, as our discussions helped us to score the students similarly.
For example you might say, "As my graph shows here [you now point, touching a specific part of the graph] that the control group had an average of 10 less than my experimental group #1, and 20 less than experimental group #2. However, you also need to entertain the possibility that the data did not support your hypothesis because of a poor research design or extraneous variables of which you did not control. Its as if they designed an experiment however they wanted, then did some research, that may or may not even line up with the topic studied.
Hopefully your teacher has prepared you for the types of questions you may get, and if you are lucky, you even had a chance to practice this with your classmates before the competition!
If you get an error, it might be because you are using a school account that restricts your access to Google Drive. I hope you can help because our trifold will be among hundreds in our schools involvement fair and we need to get some attention.Thank you very very very much and I hope to hear from you soon!***************************Hello MosumThank you for writing to me and for being so complimentary. Then together the judges are asked to write some narrative comments to return to the student.
I will make some suggestions for you and I am hoping others who read your request will be able to contribute some ideas as well :) I think simplicity is the key with trifolds.
On this comment sheet they asked judges to make both complements and suggestions for improvement in the categories of: scientific method, oral presentation, the poster itself, and the scientific research paper. I have seen very good projects, with strong research designs, have data that did not support the hypothesis.

If they are too busy, people tire of trying to read all of the information and move away too quickly. I would literally make that thing the focus of the whole poster board and make it the largest item on display. I was impressed with how well you understood the scientific method and how accurately you assessed a student's level of understanding of that process.
Your students are lucky to have you and I'm sure will miss you when you are done student teaching.
Then people will stop to see if your text answers the question, if they want to know the answer :)Also, make all lines lead the reader towards the main idea. See how I have made the middle piece higher than the side pieces, then added the heart to make people tend to follow on from it to the title?Are people going to walk quickly by your trifold?
Use red for the headings (mount the whole heading or individual letters on black cardstock too if possible) and your pieces of information, written on white paper in large black writing matted on black cardstock. Then use pieces of double sided foam tape or a hot glue gun to pop them up off the background (which will probably also be white). I roughed this idea out for you in the image I attached.Think about subject matter first, then the images and decorations. If you have a message you need to get across, you don't want people looking only at images and moving on. Use some decorative borders as well but be sure to leave enough white space to allow people to focus on the words you want them to read.
It will make people focus on what you HAVE put on the board.You could make one of the images you want to use very large so that it could be glued to a piece of heavier card and cut out, then add foam tape to the back to pop it up off your trifold background like the heart image above. I added some sparkle as this also attracts people, but if you use too much glitter it may have the opposite effect. Ask others (who have not seen your trifold yet) to stand a distance away and see if they can tell what your poster is about.
Another planning idea, if you have time, is to make some 'practice' trifolds with smaller pieces of paper and images cut to size. Move them around trying different arrangements and colours till you have a result that pleases you, then make your real trifold using your practice one as a guide.Have a look at other people's trifolds on the web by Googling 'trifold poster board' and clicking on 'images'. You may like some of the layouts you discover that way so you could adapt them to your own needs. Here's one with reds and blues that stood out for me in my own search:Cornstarch Display BoardI hope these ideas help and that you will post a picture of your finished trifold for me here soon.

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