Science Fair Central: Science Fair/STEAM Night Checklists

Are you planning your first-ever Science Fair or STEAM Night?

Our checklists will help you get started, guide you through your event, and help recognize the hard work and talent of your students. Check back for judging rubrics, tips for engaging parents, and activities for students and families to complete together.

One of your first decisions will be which types of projects to have at the fair. You may wish to have only an investigation science fair or a STEAM event. You can also mix the two kinds of projects, which gives students a choice. In many ways this is the optimal model, as the more interest the student has in the topic as well as the type of hands-on process, the more motivation he or she will have to keep up the momentum throughout the six weeks.




An investigation is a science fair project that uses scientific methodology (which includes experimenting) to carry out an investigation.

During an investigation, the student starts out with a question based on a scientific problem; develops a hypothesis (or educated guess) as to the answer; designs and conducts an experiment to test the hypothesis; measures and collects data; documents and analyzes the results; and draws a conclusion.

Engineering and STEAM Fairs


An invention is an original design that serves a purpose and solves a real problem. It can also be something that improves an object previously invented by someone else or takes it in a completely different direction.

Students who are good problem solvers and especially students who like to think “outside the box” are good candidates to invent something for their science fair project. All students can become better at engineering, but for some, it is the most interesting way to apply their science skills.

Engineering uses a scientific approach and both inventions and investigations depend on good questions, planning, using appropriate materials, collecting data, making sense of the data to verify the results, and presenting the results to others for review.

Parent Participation

Parents play an important role in supporting their children throughout the duration of the science fair process. They can also be a huge help by volunteering to help before and during the fair itself. Start off on the right foot. Establish good communication with parents early on so they understand expectations and anticipate deadlines.

Hands-on Activities

The Maker spirit is all about “learning-through-doing.” Infuse this spirit into your science fair or STEAM event with fun, hands-on activities designed to encourage exploration and spark curiosity in your students!


Judging worksheets and scoring systems vary from fair to fair, but most follow similar criteria. Students are judged on their understanding of how well they used scientific methods or the engineering design process to develop and conduct their project. Both inventions and investigations involve planning, careful investigation, collection of data, and making sense of the data at the end.

Here’s a sample worksheet scoring sheet to give a sense of the categories, criteria and level of detail involved in judging science fairs. You may wish to have a separate area for the oral presentation. But in most cases, the presentation is meant to clarify the project display and provide anecdotal information that would not fit or be appropriate.

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