Read the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) Rules and Guidelines before you start your project.
As an Intel ISEF affiliated fair, SVSEF follows Intel ISEF Rules and has adapted the forms that appear on the ISEF web . SVSEF web pages provide information about requirements and procedures that are specific to our South Valley SEF.

Find the type of project you are doing from the list below and review the minimum requirements for project acceptance. Make sure that the information described in the requirements list is included in your Research Plan section of your application.

Acceptable Types of Science Fair Projects
SVSEF allows ONLY science projects, (biology, chemistry, and physics) engineering, and math/computers projects.

Science, Math & Computer Projects: investigates the effects of changes or answers the question “Why?”.

Engineering Projects: solve a need or problem, and includes measurements of success.

NOT Accepted at SVSEF

Can you channel your interest into doing a Science, Engineering, Math, or Computer project? Ask your teacher for help

Demonstration Project: shows how something works – NOT accepted at SVSEF

Product Testing Project: tests and compares similar items using measurable endpoints

Behavioral Science/Human Participants Project: Projects where people are being studied.

What interests you about your demonstration, behavior science or product testing project?

While arrangements are in progress for the the upcoming fall Clinics dates, please review the following links for 2017 Teacher Workshop presentation for teachers and Engineering Workshop 2018 slide presentation:

Above for Everyone

Science Project minimum requirements
For science projects, you start with a testable question that begins “Why… or What is effect of a change in X on Y? “(for example, what is the effect of a change in the amount of sunlight on the growth of tomato plants).
Include a bibliography with references from your literature research.
Formulate a hypothesis based on your library research and knowledge. It is your best estimate of what will happen. It’s not only OK but quite common if your results turn out differently.
Design your experiment:
(A) Define a control (a “standard” group) to which all test groups will be compared.
(B) Define test groups where only one variable differs from the “control” group.
(C) Identify both the independent and dependent variables. To tell the difference, the independent variable can change the test outcome of the dependent variable, but not vice versa.
(D) Define the measurable endpoint(s).
Each test group should contain a minimum of 3 objects being tested (seed, plant, rat, etc.). A group size of at least 10 is required for projects with human participants (behavioral science projects).
Plan to change only one variable in each test cycle. However, change the variable in several ways (several concentrations of a chemical, several temperatures, or several time points etc.).
Report measurements in metric units when possible.
Repeat the test at least 3 times to see if your results are reproducible.
SEE for helpful hints.

Engineering and
Math/Computer Projects minimum requirements

You will have a goal, not a hypothesis, for an engineering or math/computer project, so clearly define the problem or need your project will solve.
Include the bibliography from your literature research.
List design criteria and design constraints
Physical and functional characteristics of the design (shape, weight, etc.).
Design constraints/limitations (cost, time, available materials, etc.).
Clearly state success criteria. What will you measure to see if your design worked?
Report measurements in metric units where possible.
SEE for helpful hints.

Clinic Presentations

While we neither expect nor require that all SVSEF projects go on to compete at the Synopsys Championship, taking a look at the latter’s past teacher and student clinics may provide valuable guidance for participation in our science and engineering fair (SEF).

For Everyone

Project Design Principles
To help our students review project design principles such as identifying the independent and dependent variables and controls in an experiment, performing measurements, calculating averages, using multiple trials (“replicates), analyzing patterns, recognizing correlations, setting up data tables, graphing, and design optimization, SVSEF has permission from Everfi to access their fun digital lessons.

You may review these principles using Hockey Science Scholar: Variables & Experimental Design, in Modules 8 (Strength) and 12 (Goalie Pads) and/or Hockey Math Scholar: Data & Graphs, in Modules 7 (Speed ) and 10 (Skate Blades) by registering at and using MATH class code: 82a06954 and SCIENCE class code: A1953079

For everyone




AVOID SEF PROJECTS THAT ARE UNLIKELY TO BE ACCEPTED BY the Scientific and Engineering Review Committee (SRC):

  1. Effect of colored light, music, or talking on plant growth (OK at middle school if variables are included)
  2. Crystal growth (OK at middle school if variables are included)
  3. Effect of cola, coffee, and other beverages on teeth
  4. Effect of music, video games, etc. on blood pressure (OK with variables and 10 people per group)
  5. Strength/absorbency of paper towels
  6. Consumer product testing (“What is the best type of …?)
  7. Astrology projects
  8. Maze running (unless there are variables and controls)
  9. Any project that boils down to simple preferences
  10. Effect of color on taste
  11. Optical illusions
  12. Reaction times (OK with variables and 10 people per group)
  13. Planaria worm regeneration (OK with variables and greater than 10 per group)
  14. Detergents vs. stains
  15. Basic solar collectors or ovens (OK if engineering design variables are included)
  16. Acid rain projects (unless thorough research into the composition of acid rain is included in your project application AND a scientifically accurate simulation will be done for your project)
  17. Basic flight testing of planes (OK if variables are included)
  18. Model rocket testing
  19. Battery life comparisons (plug-in, then run them down type)
  20. Pyramid power
  21. Color choices of goldfish, etc.
  22. Basic chromatography (OK at middle school if variables are included)
  23. Wing/fin shape comparison (OK if mass is taken into consideration)

Results need to be expressed in UNITS of growth, size, mass, speed, time, volume, frequency, replication rate, chemical analysis, or other quantifiable methods. Change from qualitative to quantitative measurements (those that give you data with numbers in SI units) to meet this requirement.

Projects taken DIRECTLY from the literature (books, magazine articles, etc.) or the Internet is considered PLAGIARISM and will NOT be accepted.
Scientific fraud and misconduct are NEVER condoned at any level of research or competition. This included plagiarism, forgery, data fabrication, and the use or presentation of another researcher’s work as your own. The SVSEF, SCVSEFA, CSSEF, and ISEF will not allow these projects to compete, and if discovered post-competition, will revoke recognition of said projects and ban these students from future SEF participation.
You are encouraged to get inspiration from sources (such as that you might have looked at during your background literature search, but the IDEA for your project MUST BE ORIGINAL. Use your creativity to add your twist to the project to make it your own – and to meet this requirement.


What is the SRC?
The term SRC is actually used two ways. The acronym SRC stands for Scientific and Engineering Review Committee. One meaning refers to the group of people who form a committee that reviews each project application to ensure that all safety and legal requirements will be met and that the appropriate forms have been completed. SVSEF’s SRC is composed of people with expertise/credentials in various subjects who work together to review each of the project applications. Another meaning is Safety Review Committee.

I​n addition to an SRC committee, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) is composed of at least three people: a science teacher, a school administrator and a psychologist, doctor (M.D.) or nurse (R.N.). SVSEF does not have an IRB committee; we use the Santa Clara Valley Science and Engineering Fair Association’s (SCVSEFA’s) IRB.

SRC also refers to the process of a project being reviewed. SVSEF combines all of the above meanings, with our designation of SRC as the Safety/Science Review Committee and the process of being reviewed by the same. You may ask if a project “requires SRC (or IRB) approval” or if it has “met SRC (or IRB) requirements.” ALL SVSEF Projects require SRC and those involving humans or animals as test subjects or those utilizing hazardous materials and/or procedures require additional SRC/IRB at the county science fair level through SCVSEFA.

Do I need SRC approval BEFORE I can begin my project? What are the SVSEF SRC guidelines and rules?

YES: SVSEF follows the rules of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) SRC with two changes: (1) the pre-approval at the county science fair level (SVSEFA) of ALL projects in the Hazardous Agents, Activities and Devices category, and (2) no behavioral science or model rockets projects.

Please check the SCVSEFA SRC pre-approval diagram to help determine if a project requires SRC/Institutional Review Board (IRB) their consent. This will be true for most  science/engineering projects using potentially hazardous biological agents.
This ensures the project will not present an excessive amount of risk to the human subjects involved in the study.
If you project will require SRC or IRB, you MUST submit a Form 3 with your application to the Synopsys Championship.

The ISEF Rules Wizard can help you determine which additional forms to complete if your project falls into one of the above categories. Forms listed below may be downloaded from the Forms page on the ISEF website.

Form (1C)

Regulated Research Institutional (RRI)/ Industrial Setting
To be completed by the Supervising Adult AFTER an RRI project is complete.

Form (2)

Qualified Scientist
Required for any project involving humans, vertebrate animals, potentially hazardous biological agents and controlled substances. Submit BEFORE experimentation begins.

Form (3)

Risk Assessment
Required for any project using hazardous chemicals, activities or devices, and microorganisms that are exempt from pre-approval. Submit BEFORE experimentation begins.

Form (4)

Human Participants
Required for SRC-pre-approval of any project involving human participants. Submit BEFORE experimentation begins.
Human Informed Consent Form
Sample consent form is required for ANY project involving humans

Forms (5A) and (5B)

Vertebrate Animal
Required for SRC pre-approval of any project involving animals with bones

Form (6A)

Potentially Hazardous Biological Agents Risk Assessment
Required for SRC pre-approval of any project involving microorganisms, rDNA, tissue, blood, or body fluids; submit BEFORE experimentation begins.

Form (6B)

Human and Vertebrate Animal Tissue
Required for SRC pre-approval of any project involving tissue, blood, or body fluids; submit BEFORE experimentation begins.

Form (7)

Continuation/Research Progression Projects Required for SRC pre-approval of any project that continues in the same field of study as a previous project.

Download the above at Intel ISEF forms


Not to exceed 15 inches (38 cm) deep, front to back; 48 inches (122 cm) wide, side to side; and 5 ft (150 cm) high above the table top
Display materials must fit on the table in front of your board. This space is approx. 15″ x 24″ Display boards of 3-4 ft height (vs 5 ft) are recommended for readability by the judges

Use size 24-point or larger font
Position your main points at eye level

Student name(s) should NOT appear on the display board; They are to be LEGIBLY PRINTED on the BACK of the Right Side panel of your board

References (Bibliography) are required on the display board
If the bibliography is very long, include “Selected References” on the board and have available copies of the complete list

Display your abstract and original notebook (kept during your work) with your project
Bring 10-15 copies of your abstract for handouts to the judges

For guidance on writing your abstract, visit

Display ISEF Forms 1C and 7 if your project requires them
Have signed copies of ISEF Informed Consent Forms from human subjects available but do not display them

Research Institution Logos
School names or logos
Formal Project Summaries for distribution (only Abstracts may be distributed)
PowerPoint® presentations or digital equivalents on a laptop (other than demos or videos of data that cannot be displayed in any other way)
Acknowledgements (names of mentors, university labs, etc.)
Awards, medals, business cards, flags, endorsements or acknowledgements from previous fairs.
Photographs of people other than student presenter(s) unless signed Form 4 is available.
Photographs or other visual presentations depicting vertebrate animals in surgical techniques, dissections, necropsies, other lab techniques, improper handling methods, improper housing conditions, procedures, etc.

Use photos or drawings instead of these disallowed physical objects:
All liquids, including water
Human or animal food (e.g., popcorn, M&Ms, etc.)
Living organisms (including plants, fungi, and bacteria)
Soil or waste samples, toxic waste samples
Dried plant materials
Taxidermy specimens or parts
Preserved vertebrate or invertebrate animals or their parts
Human/animal parts or body fluids (blood, urine)
Laboratory/household chemicals
Batteries with open-top cells
Poisons, drugs, controlled substances, hazardous substances or devices (for example: firearms, weapons, ammunition, reloading devices)
Dry ice or other sublimating solids (solids which vaporize to a gas without passing through a liquid phase)
Sharp items (for example: syringes, needles, pipettes, knives)
Any flames, open or concealed, or highly flammable materials
Gases or empty tanks that previously contained combustible liquids or gases, including butane and propane

​Proper attention to safety is expected of all participants, including compliance with the following requirements:
No hand-held laser pointers of any power. No operation of Class III or Class IV lasers
No operation of unshielded belts, pulleys, chains, or moving parts with tension or pinch points
Any exhibit producing temperatures that could cause physical burns must be adequately insulated
Properly fasten all wiring. Nails, tacks, or unshielded staples are not acceptable
Electrical power: Only supplied to projects which cannot be displayed any other way. NOT FOR LAPTOPS alone.
Electrical power supplied to approved projects and, therefore, the maximums allowed for projects is 120 or 220 Volt, A.C., single phase, 60 cycles
All electrical connectors, wiring, switches, extension cords, fuses, etc. must be UL-listed and must be appropriate for the load and equipment. Connections must be soldered or made with UL-listed connectors. Wiring, switches, and metal parts must have adequate insulation and over-current safety devices (such as fuses) and must be inaccessible to anyone other than the SVSEF participant. Exposed electrical equipment or metal that may possibly be energized must be shielded with a non-conducting material or with a grounded metal box to prevent accidental contact.
Wiring that is not a part of a commercially available UL-listed appliance or piece of equipment must have a clearly visible fuse or circuit breaker on the supply side of the power source and prior to any project equipment.
There must be an accessible, clearly visible on/off switch or other means of disconnect from the 120 or 220 Volt power source
Digital demos or videos can be made from battery powered laptops only, and are allowed only to provide data unavailable in any other format. At its discretion, the compliance committee may restrict the operation of the project, or exhibition of specified items, to the time of judging only. Failure to follow these restrictions can result in project disqualification after judging is completed.
If applicable, ISEF Forms 1C and/or Form 7 should be displayed on the project board. Each signed Form 4 should be available, but not displayed


SVSEF assumes no responsibility for loss or damage to any project or project part. Valuable items should be simulated or removed when the student is not present at his/her project.

Inexpensive display boards and other display aids are available at most office and art supply stores
Use type families and colored backgrounds to associate groups of information throughout your display. Remember that black or dark type is easiest to read and that judges do notice spelling and grammar
Your title should be big, easy to read, and capture the spirit of your research. You can use two titles if you wish, a scientific one on top and one for the lay audience below it
Possible sections for your board might include: Introduction, Background/Research, Hypothesis, Experimental Design, Data, Data Interpretation, Conclusion/Discussion, Further Research
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photographs and drawings are good display tools: they help your audience understand your research and are eye-catching aids for your display. Remember you need written consent (Form 4) if you use a photograph of anyone other than yourself
Use the largest possible visuals and type. Important text should be legible from at least three feet away. Use font sizes of at least 24 points on your display board
Use brief statements. Aim to have three to five bulleted statements, each 10 to 20 words per section.
Tables of numerical data have a place—but maybe it’s in the notebook rather than on the display board. Use graphs or charts instead of tables wherever possible
Label the units of measurement used on each chart axis (e.g., “Centimeters of Rain,” “Years,” “Number of Ladybugs”). Use metric (SI) measurements and scientific names if possible
Caption your graphs and charts and indicate trends, conclusions drawn, etc