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Category Judges FAQ

What is a Category Judge and how does it differ from the other judges?
  • A Category Judge will judge students in a particular category and will award a 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place and honorable mention winner in that category. The Senior (9th-12th grades) and Intermediate (7th-8th grades) Division categories are Behavorial & Social Sciences, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computers/Math, Earth/Space/Environment, Engineering/Robotics, and Medicine/Health/Microbiology. The Intermediate Division also includes Consumer Science category. The Junior Division (6th grade) categories are Physical Science, Life Science and Consumer Science.
  • Sponsor Judge: Sponsors of the Science Fair send a representative to select the winning science fair project(s) in its fields of interest. A cash award is given to the student in the name of the organization. Sometimes a sponsor judge is a category judge.
  • Affiliated Sponsor Judge picks winners based on criteria received from the International Science and Engineering Fair. These awards could be certificates, medallions or cash, and are determined by the Affiliate Sponsor.
  • Scholarship Judges are representatives from local colleges and universities which awards scholarships that include full/half/partial tuition scholarships, pre-college program scholarships.

What is the time commitment for judging?
See the Category Judge schedule.

I don't know if I am qualified to judge.
If you have understanding of a field of Science or Engineering and confidence in your ability to chat with a bright young person, then you can judge! A large percentage of our judges return every year. They love doing it and look forward to the Fair.

How do I learn to score the projects like experienced judges?
You don't, and it is not necessary that you do! Just imagine if we had to calibrate our judges! It is unlikely that different people will give identical scores to a project, even if they are experienced judges. You will use your scores to rank the projects you judge, and you will not compare your scores with those of other judges, but you will compare your rankings. As judges deliberate, they discuss the relative merits of the projects and come to an agreement on which projects are the best in each category.

What makes a good project?
The Judging Rubric is used as a guide. A good project is one that asks a good question in a novel or creative way and uses good science to explore that question and comes to a conclusion based on the work.

What really happens on the day of the Fair?
You will gather at the place identified in your assignment letter, which will reach you shortly before the Fair. You will register, have a cup of coffee, and meet the other judges in your category. After a brief orientation you meet with your Chair judges to receive your assignment. Assignments are a list of projects, usually around 10, which are your responsibility to judge. At least one other judge will also be judging those projects. You will judge those projects and help to select the category winner.

How do I get a Category assignment?
When you register, you are asked to choose four categories that are suitable to your interests and qualifications. The number of projects in each category establishes the number of judges needed for that category. We want at least two judges for each Intermediate and Junior Division project; we prefer three for Senior Division projects. You will receive your assignment by email at least one week before the fair day.

What will I actually do as a judge?
Your Category Chair will assign some projects to you for judging. You will then have time to go look at all of the projects in the category of your assignment without the students present, and pay particular attention to the ones that you are to judge. Students return to stand before their projects; you will interview them about their work at this time.

Will I be on my own or will I have help?
We much prefer that you interview students by yourself. It is less intimidating to the students and better fills the time for them by individual interviews. A new judge may want to accompany an experienced judge for an interview if that is considered helpful. Your Category Chair can help and there are other resources on the day of the Fair. You are not alone.
How long will judging take?
A judge's day is completed with the selection of the category winners. Winners must be chosen by 2:00 p.m. The Science Fair will provide lunch.

What if I recognize a student or project?
To preserve the integrity of the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair, even the slightest appearance of prejudice must be avoided. If a judge has any relationship to or knowledge of an entrant or project, that judge must decline participation where it may influence an entrant's award.

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