California State Science Fair
Changes from 2015 - 2016


The California State Science Fair strives continually to improve the quality of the event for its participants throughout the State of California. As part of these ongoing efforts the changes listed below will be implemented. Some of these changes were discussed at the last Affiliated Fair Conference which was held during the 2015 California State Science Fair.

Fair Date
Professional Research Opportunity Support
Earlier Rolling Acceptances
New Category Sponsorship
New Special Awards Threshold
Annual Update
Project Allocations for 2016
Intel ISEF Affiliation
Broadcom MASTERS Competition
Recent Changes (from previous Fairs)
Participants at Public Viewing (2012)
Junior Division Awards Ceremony Not Public (2012)
Alternative Human Subjects/ Safety Certification Forms (2012)
Modified Application Procedure for Alternates (2008)

Fair Date

For 2016 the California State Science Fair will take place on May 23-24. Traditionally CSSF has been scheduled on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Memorial Day Observed Day. However, in several recent years we have moved forward in the calendar anticipating an eventual affiliation with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). This affiliation would be impossible to arrange given our traditional schedule because CSSF’s traditional dates always occur after ISEF. Nevertheless it is our continuing intention to seek an affiliation with ISEF at the earliest opportunity in order to be able to send our top winners in the Senior Division to this prestigious competition.

Professional Research Opportunity Support

All students who have been supported in a professional research environment must submit the new Professional Research Opportunity Support form as part of their application. Years ago, students who had worked in a professional research environment were required only to have a letter from their research advisor available for inspection by the judges at their project display.

Beginning in 2013, students were required to produce this required letter as part of the application process. No student who had performed all or a substantial part of their project in a professional research environment was permitted to register or set up their project display without having previously produced this letter.

The change for 2016 is that instead of an unstructured letter, now students who have enjoyed the support of a professional research environment must have the research director at that institution complete a specific form. This form is considered part of the application so in its absence the application is incomplete and no such student will be permitted to register or set up his/her display. This is formalized in a revised Display Regulation 8:

8. All projects must clearly distinguish between the work of the student participant and the work of others. Students participating in a research opportunity in industry, a university, hospital, or institution other than their school, must display only their research. Such students must have the principal research director complete the Professional Research Opportunity Support form specifying the assistance received and the role and contributions of others in the project. A copy of this form must be submitted as part of the application. The original must be included in the project notebook at the project display for inspection by the judges. Though discouraged, ISEF Form 1C is an acceptable alternative.

As stated in the Display Regulation, students should keep the original letter with their project, and send only a photocopy (or scan) as part of their application.

As earlier, CSSF recognizes ISEF Form 1C as an acceptable substitute for the required letter, although the CSSF Professional Research Opportunity Support form is preferred. Students who have participated in a county or regional science fair which is an ISEF affiliate and who already have a completed ISEF Form 1C may use that form instead of needing to generate yet another piece of documentation from their research advisor. As required by ISEF, the original should be kept with the project display; send only a copy as part of your application.

Earlier Rolling Acceptances

Acceptances for students from fairs with early deadlines will receive notice earlier than before. Submission Deadlines for all of CSSF's affiliates are staggered across several weeks, often spanning March and April, with fairs whose Awards Ceremonies are held earliest having the earliest deadlines. Nevertheless, before 2009 all applicants received notice of acceptance (or not) at the same time, the Final Decision Date, which for 2016 is Sunday, May 1.

In an effort to allow families more time to make travel plans, beginning in 2009 acceptances were announced progressively over the course of the application period. Acceptances (or rejections) for applicants from each affiliate were announced 14 calendar days after the Submission Deadline for that affiliate, or the Final Decision Date, whichever came earlier.

For 2016 the Decision Date for each affiliate is changed to be only 7 calendar days after the affiliate's Submission Deadline, or the Final Decision Date, whichever comes earlier.

New Category Sponsorship

Individual categories are now available for sponsorship. Returning to a previous policy, organizations wishing to support the California State Science Fair may now sponsor any category. A fuller explanation, and contact information, is provided in this document.

New Special Awards Threshold

The minimum award size for Special Awards presented at the Awards Ceremonies is now $1250. For many years this threshold was set at $500, but has been raised for 2016. Additionally, Special Awards presented at the Awards Ceremonies now incur a yearly Presentation Fee of $250 for the support of the California State Science Fair.

Recognition Awards (those awards below the Special Awards threshold) are unaffected by this change and will continue to be presented to students at their project displays during the second session of judging. Recognition Awards incur no Presentation Fee.

Project Allocations for 2016

The allocations to affiliated fairs of the number of projects which may be sent to CSSF have been determined. Beginning in 1998, the number of projects which each affiliated fair is allowed to qualify to CSSF has been defined as an explicit limit by CSSF, rather than loose limits determined by each fair independently. Based upon current available space, determined needs across the entire State, and discussions with our affiliates, most notably all of those participating in recent Affiliated Fairs Conferences, here are the allocations for 2016.

Intel ISEF Affiliation

The California State Science Fair is not an affiliate of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for 2016. As a result of this decision, the final science fair competition for CSSF participants in the Senior Division will be CSSF unless they have already qualified to ISEF through a more local ISEF-affiliated fair.

No decision has been made with respect to an ISEF affiliation for 2017 and into the future. When any decision about any such affiliation has been made we will announce that decision on this web site. Owing to the importance of this decision to our affiliates, this decision will be communicated directly with each affiliate through our usual means at the earliest possible time.

Broadcom MASTERS Competition

The California State Science Fair is affiliated with the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) Competition for 2016. As a result of this affiliation, all projects in the Junior Division which receive a category award of First or Second Place will be qualified into, and receive entry packages for, the Broadcom MASTERS competition. Depending upon the number of such selected students who have already been qualified into the Broadcom MASTERS by affiliated fairs, it may be possible for CSSF to qualify Third Place winners as well. Obviously, this will not be known until the Junior Division Awards Ceremony.

The Broadcom MASTERS is a nationwide competition for students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. From the total entrant pool, 300 Semifinalists will be selected, including 30 Finalists who win an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for themselves and one chaperon, where they will compete for awards and prizes, including the top award of $25,000. For further information on the competition itself see the Broadcom MASTERS web site.

Participants at Public Viewing (Changed in 2012)

All participants are requested to be present for Public Viewing on Monday, 3:00 - 4:30 pm. Central to the California State Science Fair's mission is the promotion of its participants and recognition of their accomplishments. One way we do this is by inviting the general public to view the projects entered into the Fair. While there has always been a Public Viewing time, beginning in 2012 we have changed Public Viewing to a relatively short period in the late afternoon, thus assuring that almost all projects will be entirely set up. Public Viewing has been scheduled so as to make it convenient for all participants to move to the Opening Ceremony and Keynote Address immediately following it.

Within the Public Viewing period we will provide a schedule by which all participants will be given an opportunity to visit other projects while their presenters are available.

Please note that no participant is required to be present at the Public Viewing. The invitation to the general public is meant to showcase your work which will be on display, whether or not you choose to be present to explain your work. While we have termed this period “Public Viewing,” it is expected that most students will avail themselves of this opportunity to see other projects. This opportunity will not repeat itself later during the Judging Period on Tuesday because all students will need to be at or near their projects for that entire time.

Junior Division Awards Ceremony Not Public (Changed in 2012)

Due to space limitations, the Junior Division Awards Ceremony is once again closed to the general public. Historically the Awards Ceremonies of CSSF have been open to any and all who have wanted to attend. However, there are so many people who would like to attend the Junior Division Awards Ceremony that, if not limited, attendance would exceed the building capacity set by the Fire Marshal.

Therefore, admission to the Junior Division Awards Ceremony will be limited to:

  1. Junior Division participants wearing their CSSF nametag, and
  2. guests holding a valid Admission Ticket.

A “guest” is anyone other than a Junior Division participant and includes Senior Division participants, family members of participants, and the general public. While Junior Division participants are guaranteed seating at the ceremony, an Admission Ticket is good only for admission to the Annenberg Building, and does not guarantee a seat in the Big Lab where the awards are presented. Seats are on a first-come basis and cannot be reserved. When the Fire Marshal-established maximum room capacity has been reached, all further guests will be directed to an overflow room within the same building which will have a live audio/video feed.

In order to fairly apportion the Admission Tickets to all who would like to attend the Junior Division Awards Ceremony, every Junior Division participant will be given one (1) such ticket at Registration where he/she will also collect the nametag, Program of Projects, and other relevant materials. Responsibility for determining to whom that Admission Ticket will be given rests solely with the registered Junior Division participant.

Schedule of Awards Ceremonies
Division Start Time End Time
Junior Division 4:00 pm 5:00 pm
Senior Division5:30 pm 6:30 pm

In contrast, since the Senior Division Awards Ceremony follows the Junior Division, and attendance is known to be smaller from experience in prior years, the Senior Division ceremony will be open to the public. No Admission Ticket will be required for the Senior Division Awards Ceremony.

Alternative Human Subjects/ Safety Certification Forms (Changed in 2012)

ISEF Certification Forms will be accepted in place of the CSSF Safety/Certification form. Students whose projects involve research on human subjects, vertebrate animals, or potentially hazardous biological agents are required, as a precondition for participation in CSSF (as well as most science fairs), to certify that they have followed all applicable regulations during the execution of their research project. In recognition that Senior Division students from some CSSF-affiliated fairs are already required to complete the more comprehensive ISEF forms, CSSF will accept these completed ISEF forms in place of our own Safety/Certification form.

There is no requirement at CSSF to use the ISEF forms. In particular, Senior Division students in ISEF-affiliated fairs may choose to submit the simpler CSSF form. Naturally, Junior Division participants, who are not eligible for ISEF, are expected to submit the CSSF form, as well as are all participants from non-ISEF-affiliates. In brief, all participants who are required to provide certification may choose to submit either form.

The only ISEF forms which are relevant to this discussion are those numbered 2, 3, 4, 5 (A or B), 6A, and 6B. If you elect to submit the ISEF forms, do not submit the originals. Instead, keep the originals with your project notebook or display, and submit only copies to us as part of your application.

Modified Application Procedure for Alternates (Changed in 2008)

While students identified as alternates have the same Submission Deadline as qualified projects, they should not pay their Application Fee until accepted. Many, if not most, students who are named as alternates from their affiliated fair to CSSF will have their applications rejected. In years prior to 2008 such students were required to pay their application fee by the same Application Fee Deadline as qualified projects. However, in consequence of the nonrefundable nature of the application fee, students who are identified as alternates are now advised not to pay their Application Fee at the time of application, but instead should wait until they are accepted by CSSF. Alternates who do pay their application fee do not enjoy any extra priority in acceptance. Priority among alternates is established by the affiliated fair and is not changed by CSSF.

Qualified projects are required to meet their Application Fee Deadline in order to certify that they will attend CSSF if accepted. In this respect, alternates have a simpler application procedure, but this is in recognition of the likelihood that their applications may not be accepted.

See also: Changes in previous years: 2013 , 2012 , 2011 , 2010 , 2009 , 2008 , 2007 , 2006 , 2005 , 2004 , 2003 , 2002 , 2001 , 2000 , 1999 , 1998 , 1997 .

Last updated: Tue Mar 15 08:39:44 PDT 2016
California State Science Fair / Changes for 2016 /