2018 STEM Fair Winners Announced!

Students and Parents

Updates to Fair Elligibilities

San Mateo County students in Grades 6-8 will not be permitted to participate in the 2020 Golden Gate STEM Fair. Access to the California State Science and Engineering Fair and the Broadcom MASTERS will be exclusively through the SMCOE STEM Fair.

Required Forms for Human Subjects or Biological Experiments

The SRC form must be completed by any student, grade 6 through 12, whose project involves (even if only observing or surveying) human subjects, invertebrate or non-human vertebrate animals, recombinant DNA, tissues, pathogenic agents, or controlled substances. This document should be submitted BEFORE the investigation has begun.

Download SRC Form

The Informed Consent Form is required for EACH human subject involved in a student's science project. These forms do not need to be turned in to the San Mateo County Office of Education STEM Fair. They should be kept by the student researcher unless they are requested by the SRC

Download Informaed Consent Form

Getting Ready For The Fair

Students at the fair have put in a lot of hard work on their projects. It is important to make sure that all of the requirements of the San Mateo County STEM Fair have also been met. The Fair tries its best to align its requirements with that of the State Science Fair and national fairs such as the Broadcom Masters and the Intel Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Please look over the requirements and tips below to make sure your are ready for the fair.

Important Dates and Details

Students and Parents

  • Dec.3
    SRC Form Deadline
  • Jan. 21
    Student Project Registration Opens
  • Feb. 21
    Student Project Registration Closes
  • Mar. 14
    Project Check In @ San Mateo County Event Center - Fiesta Hall
  • Mar. 15
    STEM Fair & Arts Expo @ San Mateo County Event Center - Fiesta Hall

Sat, March 14

Project Check In

  • 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
    Student Arts & STEM Fair Project Check-in

Check-in takes approximately 30 minutes, so please arrive early.

Sun, March 15

Stem Fair and Art Expo

Interviews at Project Boards
  • 10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - 5th & 6th Grades
  • 12:30 - 1:45 p.m. - 7th & 8th Grades
Open House
  • 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. - Open House

Project Categories

The San Mateo County STEM Fair project categories are aligned to the four Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) from the Next Generation Science Standards. They are also compatible with San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair categories and the California State Science Fair categories.

Each Disciplinary Core Idea has one or more STEM Fair Categories. Each category has a brief description and Examples of project titles. Please note that it is the teachers’ responsibility to determine the appropriate category for each students project. However, the fair director has the discretionary right to re-classify projects if they are not categorized correctly.

Physical Sciences

Chemistry Icon

Physical chemistry and chemical reactions - thermodynamics, non-biological and inorganic
Ex: Conductivity of Electrolytes, Does Water Rotation of Determination of Ricinoleic Acid

Physics Icon

Motion, force, energy, waves (electromagnetism), stability, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics
Ex: Chaotic Pendulum, Effect of Fins on Water Rocket Stability, Transmission of Information by Laser

Materials Science Icon
Materials Science

Static physical properties, characterization of static materials
Ex: Can Foam Make Steel Bridges Stronger?; Which Metal Conducts the Most Heat?

Life Sciences

Biological Systems Icon
Biological Systems

Pharmaceutical, heredity, molecular biology, microbiology, botany, zoology (non-behavioral)
Ex: Determination in Orange Juice Using a Redox Reaction; Vitamin Deficiencies; Transpiration of Plants Under Different Light Sources

Behavioral Sciences Icon
Behavioral Sciences

Cognitive, social, & health science, survey projects
Ex: A Study of Senses in Stress Management; AIDS Awareness in Teens; Does Age Affect Implicit Learning?

Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences

BEarth, Space, and Environmental Sciences Icon
Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences

Ecosystems, ecology, interactions, climate change, erosion, weather, Earth and human activity, astrophysics, and oceanography
Ex: The Effects of Fire on Flora and Fauna; Solar Activity and Geosynchronous Satellites; Dependence of Liquefaction upon Soil Composition

Engineering, Technology and Application of Science

Engineering, Technology and Application of Science Icon
Engineering, Technology and Application of Science

Product science, comparing consumer oriented applications, prototype designs, structural engineering and analysis, mechanical Inventions, renewable resources
Ex: How Do Different Foundations Stand Up to Earthquakes?; Are Maglev Trains Practical

Math and Software Icon
Math and Software

Computer sciences, geometry, topology, morphology, number theory, algorithm analysis, modeling and simulation, programming environments, programming languages
Ex: Knot Mathematics; Partitions of Positive Numbers; Computer Modeled Evolution

Project and Interview Tips

Interview Tips

Think of yourself as belonging to the science community.

You are sharing your ideas among colleagues

Find a way to get physically comfortable with yourself just before you begin.

Breathe easily!

Draw from what you know by heart — so that it doesn’t sound overly "memorized."

Speak from your place of confidence!

Communicate in a natural manner, not rushed, perhaps just a bit slower than usual.

Give each idea its moment in the sun.

Let your opening start with a BIG IDEA, then connect it to your research topic.

Place your project into context!

Provide a brief overview of highlights, like an abstract or a movie trailer.

Excite your audience about your project!

Allow questions and comments to guide the direction of your presentation.

Pause from time to time to allow for dialogue!

If you don’t know, use the moment to think out loud with your colleagues.

Show the quality of your thinking process!

Used sparingly, humor, charm, and eye contact may help you connect with your colleagues.

Stay focused on the science story!


Clothes should be neat, preferably business style — this shows your respect for yourself and the judges.

a dress
a suit
an I heart cats shirt



Introduce yourself to the judges and start describing your project. Be prepared to stop your presentation to answer any questions at any time.

Rehearse your presentation several times. Have a friend, parent or teacher listen and interrupt you with questions periodically so that you can get used to stopping your presentation and answering.

Judges have a limited amount of time, so try to answer questions as succinctly as possible

Alwars remember, Judges are trying to do 3 things:

  1. Determine the merits of your work
  2. Determine if you know your project well and can speak about it knowingly
  3. To help you grow as a scientist and have a good time at the fair

Interview Judging Criteria

Project Understanding/Knowledge

  • Clearly explains the purpose or problem of the project
  • Explains the basic underlying concept(s)
  • Answers questions knowledgeably

Verbal Ability/Logical Thinking Skills

  • Clearly communicates information about the project
  • Maintains a logical train of thought when describing or explaining aspects of the project
  • Understands the concepts of variables and controls
  • Logically draws a conclusion, based upon results

Appropriate Assistance from Others

  • Acknowledges and describes any assistance from others
  • Provides evidence that any assistance is within reasonable limits

Project Judging Criteria


  • The hypothesis is clearly stated and the student has a systematic plan for testing the hypothesis (methods)
  • The project shows depth of study, effort, and understanding of theory or facts
  • Project exhibits orderly recording and analysis of data
  • Sampling techniques and data collection are appropriate to the problem
  • Scientific procedures are appropriate and organized
  • Conclusions formulated are logical, based on the data collected and relevant to hypothesis

- OR -

  • The project has clear objective relevant to needs of potential user
  • Product or process has been tested
  • Product or process is both workable and feasible economically and ecologically
  • Project exhibits orderly recording and analysis of data
  • Testing procedures are appropriate and organized
  • Conclusions are logical and based on the data collected


  • Selects a unique or creative topic
  • Scientific literature has been searched
  • Demonstrates creativity and complexity in project design
  • Demonstrates understanding of the topic by:
    • providing rational for data and conclusions
    • suggesting future extensions/research


  • Presents project in a clear, understandable fashion
  • Has an acceptable project format with all sections completed
  • Follows a standard format for citation, including endnotes and footnotes (i.e. APA or MLA)
  • Provides appropriate drawings, photographs and models to describe the project, attracts and holds attention

Display Guidelines


Displays exhibited at the Fair should be limited to a free-standing presentation board (see specifications below) succinctly explaining all aspects of your research in words, graphs or pictures. While some models/displays may be allowed it is preferable to show the model/display in photographs or if the action of the model is essential to the project (as in an engineering project) then capture the action on DVD which can be submitted using the DVD guidelines below. If your project required Informed Consent Forms then a binder with all forms and the project title on the front cover (no names) should accompany your display. Optionally you may display your lab notebook. As a reminder — NO names (student, school, teacher) or photos of the students should appear on any of the displayed items this includes the back of your presentation board and the contents of your notebooks.

Rules for Exhibits

  • Each Student will have 36 - 39 inches of table space with about an 18 inch deep area to place any notebooks or other items in front of their presentation board. If your model or demonstration is larger please do not plan to leave it with your display — Take pictures or use the DVD option. Exception for large notebooks containing Informed Consent documents.
  • There are no electrical outlets available in the exhibit area so if you need to show some device requiring electricity please plan to submit a DVD. Secure the DVD to your project board so judges can review it at judging time.
  • The following should not be brought to the fair and should only be shown in photos or DVDs:
    • live, dead or preserved plants, vertebrate or invertebrate animals or parts (including embryos, microbial cultures, algae or fungi)
    • liquids of any kind
    • dangerous or combustible solids or gases
    • glass or breakable objects
    • Soil/Dirt
    • toxic materials
    • any flammables
    • any drugs, alcohols, tobacco or controlled substances
    • any sharp objects
    • petri/agar dishes
    • firearms, projectiles, railguns, etc.
  • Displays: 1.5 ft deep x 4 ft. wide x 3 ft. high (up to 9 ft. high allowed)
  • Projects must be free-standing and durable with all parts firmly attached. Provide back support for your exhibit.
  • No attachment to walls.No electrical, gas or water outlets are available at the fair
  • Displays of bacterial/viral cultures, molds and live or preserved plants and animals, animal parts, embryos, etc. may not be displayed during the science fair. Photographs may be used.

Project Board Specifications

The display communicates the essential parts of the project in a quick, visual way. The display should be sturdy, free standing, colorful, simply illustrated, well labeled, and attractive. The title and section headings on the board should be clearly visible and readable from a distance of three to four feet. Use complementary colors as background and bright or dark letters for the titles of each section. Use appropriately sized typeface for titles, subtitles and text. The title should have the largest print on the display board and be neatly done. Enlarge graphs and use color for the different lines or bars. Use photographs that are clear and sharp, with the correct exposure. There should be an explanation under each photo and graph

A standard sized Presentation Board is a free standing tri-fold measuring 48 inches wide by 36 inches tall. Typical material is corrugated cardboard or foamcore though masonite, pegboard, or wood boards are also acceptable. Cardboard and Foamcore trifolds are available at most office or craft stores.

display board dimensions

Display Height
36 inches to 108 inches


A standard tri-fold display board is 48 inches wide by 36 inches high — the 3 panels are 12 inches, 24 inches, 12 inches respectively. A display can be made larger by stacking boards — the maximal height is 108 inches or 3 standard boards stacked. If you choose to submit a board taller than the standard height of 36”, please ensure that it is sturdy enough to remain free-standing and can easily be moved. Note: Boards taller than 72 inches are extremely difficult for judges to read and not recommended.

Display Width
48 inches maximum


The width of each display is limited to a 48 inch wide tri-fold. To accommodate all fair entries equally, each student is allotted 36 inches of table space. If you choose to submit a FLAT presentation board it will need to fit into the same footprint as a standard tri-fold and therefore should not exceed 39 inches in width and must also be free standing.


First Place Medal

Your project was the best in its grade-level for its category. Congratulations, you may be moving on to the State Science Fair or other regional fairs.

Second Place Medal

Your project was exemplary. You are an alternate for first place winners going to the State Science Fair. Some winners may move on to the State Science Fair or other regional fairs.

Third Place Ribbon

Great Job! Your project was ranked third out of all the other projects in your category and grade level. That’s quite an accomplishment!

Honorable Mention Ribbon

Way to Go! Your project is worthy of recognition!

Special Award Ribbon

Wow! Your project will be receiving a special award from one of our community partners at the awards ceremony. See you there!

STEM 2020
Participant Pin

Congratulations on entering your project at the STEM Fair!

Regional Fairs

California State Science Fair

The California State Science Fair accepts grades 6–12 individual, pair and groups of three projects from qualifying county science fairs.