Rules and Requirements

img_3543Rules and Requirements for Participation in the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Fair

 

Expand All Collapse All

Approval Before Experiment

Before a student starts a project, there are several important checkpoints. These are not only to protect the student, but also to teach the proper scientific protocols.

Types of Projects

As you decide how your school or class will participate, you need to know that there are the three types of research projects your students may do and enter:

  • Individual: Each student works on his or her own idea, and does his or her own research and project board.
  • Team: Teams of two or three students select the same topic, and work together to research and present. (Each student is involved in all phases, versus divide and conquer.)
  • Group or class project: Four or more students, or an entire class, agree on one topic, and work on it together. Each member of the group or class should be a part of the entire process, and keep their own lab book/journal with notes about the process and data.

Most Important – Before You Begin

The most demanding rules — rules that if violated can cause failure to qualify at SARSEF or ISEF — are those mandated by the Scientific Review Committee (SRC) and the Institutional Review Board (IRB). It is imperative that all projects involving non-human vertebrate animals, animal/human tissue, recombinant DNA, pathogens, human subjects, controlled substances, hazardous substances or hazardous devices obtain project approval by the SRC prior to starting the project.

Any survey or interaction with humans other than pure observation must also be reviewed and approved. Failure to obtain prior approval may result in “failure to qualify” at SARSEF and ISEF competition. Any survey or interaction with humans other than pure observation must also be reviewed and approved. Obtain approval by the SRC prior to starting the project. Failure to obtain prior approval may result in being unable to compete at SARSEF, Broadcom MASTERS or ISEF competition.

  • All projects, no matter how innocent they may appear, must be reviewed by a SRC/IRB committee, prior to starting the project if they involve one of these things. This process starts with filling out the required forms to send in for approval early in the school year and before you start!
  • Schools are encouraged to form their own Scientific Review Committee. Your SRC should consist of three adults (usually a science teacher, an administrator or designee, and a health professional such as a counselor or nurse.) School SRC do not need to send the forms to SARSEF before approving, but may if they have questions or cannot make a final determination.
  • For high school projects, it is particularly important that students who need prior approval submit all of the required forms to the school’s SRC before starting. There is a new, easy-to-follow system of questions about projects that will now lead students to the exact forms that will be needed to compete at SARSEF, and most any other national/international competitions. Please visit:

http://ruleswizard.societyforscience.org/

For K-8 students the following form may be used: Gr K-8 SRC Approval Form 11-2

This Informed Consent Form may be used for K-8: Informed Consent K-8

Upon reviewing a project, the SRC arrives at one of three decisions:

  • Approval: If a project is approved, the SRC chairperson signs the appropriate forms and returns paperwork to students as soon as possible, so that they can begin their project.
  •  Disapproval: The SRC chairperson will provide the student and sponsor with a list of reasons for disapproval, and suggestions for changes needed for approval. If suitable corrections are made, the revised project forms should be re-submitted for review. If the project is approved, the student and sponsor will be told immediately so that the student can begin their project.
  • Projects that are NOT allowed: Some projects are unethical or should not be done by elementary students. Examples: projects designed to kill vertebrate animals, toxicity studies using vertebrate animals, improper treatment of animals, proposed use of potential pathogens at home, and lack of appropriate supervision. The SRC will notify the student and sponsor promptly and provide them with a complete list of reasons the project may not be done.

Specific items SRC members consider in reviewing a project include:

  • evidence of library/literary search (Internet, journals, books, etc.)
  • evidence of proper supervision
  • use of accepted research techniques
  • completed forms, signatures and dates
  • evidence of search for alternatives to animal use
  • humane treatment of animals
  • compliance with rules and laws governing proper care and housing of animals
  • appropriate use of devices and activities
  • appropriate/safe handling and use of recombinant DNA, potentially pathogenic organisms, tissues and hazardous substances
  • adequate documentation of the substantial expansion of continuing projects.

Mold and bacteria projects:
Mold – bread mold projects (K-8) may be allowed at home ONLY if the study is stopped as soon as the mold is seen. (In other words, as soon as mold starts to grow, the bread is thrown away.)
Bacteria – At NO time is bacteria culturing allowed at home. Samples may be collected at home or in the environment, but they must then be taken to a laboratory (school or lab) to be grown. Please review ISEF rules for specifics regarding the type of bacteria that can be grown in a BSL 1 lab.

Questions may be sent to src@sarsef.org

If the school SRC is in doubt, members may submit the form to the SARSEF Scientific Review Committee (SARSEF SRC, 7380 E. Snyder Rd., Tucson AZ 85750)

For High School Students

When a student is selected for and competes at SARSEF, it is imperative that all permissions and forms are complete. The SARSEF SRC/IRB (Scientific Review Committee/Institutional Review Board) is a group of professionals that approves projects according to the affiliation requirements, and the committee has access to University of Arizona faculty who serve as adjunct members. They also have access to other specialty faculty if there are questions of safety beyond the committee’s expertise. There can be no exceptions to compliance with SRC prior review and approval, regardless of the age of the student.  Upon reviewing a project, the SRC/IRB arrives at one of three decisions:

  1. Approval: If a project is approved, the SRC chairperson signs the appropriate forms and returns paperwork to students as soon as possible, so that they can begin experimentation.
  2. Disapproval: The SRC chairperson will provide the student and sponsor with a list of reasons for disapproval and suggestions for changes needed for approval. If suitable corrections are made, the revised project forms should be resubmitted for review. If the project is approved, the student and sponsor will be notified immediately so they can begin experimentation.
  3. Not Allowed: Some projects are unethical or should not be done by pre-college students. Examples would be projects designed to kill vertebrate animals, toxicity studies using vertebrate animals, improper treatment of animals, proposed use of potential pathogens at home, and lack of appropriate supervision. The SRC will notify the student and sponsor promptly and provide them with a complete list of reasons why the project may not be done.

Specific items SRC members consider in reviewing a project include:

  • evidence of library/literary search (Internet, journals, books, etc.)
  • evidence of proper supervision
  • use of accepted research techniques
  • completed forms, signatures and dates
  • evidence of search for alternatives to animal use
  • humane treatment of animals
  • compliance with rules and laws governing proper care and housing of animals
  • appropriate/safe handling and use of recombinant DNA, potentially pathogenic organisms, tissues and hazardous substances, devices and activities
  • adequate documentation of the substantial expansion of continuing projects.

Review and follow the ISEF rules questionnaire at: https://ruleswizard.societyforscience.org/ for high school students.

FORMS FOR HIGH SCHOOL (also should be required by your School SRC)

High school students must prepare the SSP defined ISEF forms as they apply to their projects. Click on the link to be taken to a simple-to-follow online questionnaire provided at http://apps2.societyforscience.org/wizard/index.asp

Questions may be sent to src@sarsef.org. If the school SRC is in doubt, they may submit questions or the forms to: SARSEF SRC, 7380 E. Snyder Road, Tucson AZ 85750

If, after review, you, the student, or the SRC are in doubt as to which forms or approvals need to be obtained, contact SARSEF SRC (src@sarsef.org).

All high school projects that require SRC approval before the project begins must submit the forms to either their School SRC or the SARSEF SRC: (SARSEF SRC, 7380 E. Snyder Road, Tucson AZ 85750)

IMPORTANT: Submit early, and allow two weeks for processing, as the volume of applications increases as the year goes on.

For a complete list of all Forms, please go to: http://student.societyforscience.org/intel-isef-forms

Forms 1, 1A and 1B and Abstract are required for ALL  projects Grades 9-12

Forms 1C to Form 7 are only required for those projects to which they apply.

Review the general ISEF rules, and those for the area of research involved. This will help identify specific requirements and which forms apply to the project.

Informed Consent

Remember, all projects — regardless of grade level and relationship to the 
human subjects — must have SRC/IRB review. Approval must be obtained, where necessary, before they start any experimentation.

Fill out all material requested on the SRC & Informed Consent K-8 Form, Informed Consent K-8 or the appropriate ISEF Forms (9-12). Failure to receive approval before experimentation will result in Failure to Qualify for SARSEF, AZSEF, Broadcom and ISEF

The process of obtaining informed consent provides information to the subject about the risks and benefits associated with participation in the research study, and allows the subject to make an educated decision about whether or not to participate. Informed consent is an ongoing process, not a single event that ends with a signature on a page. It must incorporate procedures that do not involve coercion or deception.

Documentation of informed consent is required:

  • When the IRB determines that a research study involves physical or psychological activities with more than minimal risk
  • When the IRB determines that the project could potentially result in emotional stress to a research subject
  • When the IRB determines that the research subjects belong to a risk group and the study does not meet any of the criteria below for a waiver

Documentation of informed consent is required for most research projects. However, the IRB may waive the requirement for documentation of written informed consent if the research involves only minimal risk and anonymous data collection and if it is one of the following:

  • Research involving the observation of legal public behavior
  • Research involving collection or study of existing publicly available data or records
  • Research involving normal educational practices
  • Research on individual or group behavior, or characteristics of individuals where the researcher does not manipulate the subjects’ behavior and the study does not involve more than minimal risk.
  • Surveys and questionnaires that are determined by the IRB to involve perception, cognition or game theory and do NOT involve gathering personal information, invasion of privacy or potential for emotional distress. If there is any uncertainty regarding the appropriateness of waiving informed consent, it is strongly recommended that informed consent be obtained.
  • Studies involving physical activity where the IRB determines that no more than minimal risk exists, and where the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater (in and of themselves) than those ordinarily encountered in DAILY LIFE or during performance of routine physical activities.

If a research subject is under 18 years of age, it is recommended that, in all cases, informed consent be obtained. Both the parent/legal guardian and the school-age research subject must sign Informed Consent Form (for K-8 researchers) and HS ISEF Form 4 (Human Subjects and Informed Consent Form) for high school researchers. However, an IRB may decide that informed consent is not required because of the allowable exceptions listed above. When the IRB waives informed consent of research subjects under the age of 18 for studies involving surveys or questionnaires, documentation justifying this waiver must accompany Informed Consent Form K-8 or HS ISEF Form 4.

For K-8 students this form may be used as a sample for Informed Consent: Informed Consent K-8

There is no single prescribed SARSEF format for obtaining informed consent. It should then be copied for each participant’s appropriate signatures. These should be kept in your research journal. They should remain confidential, but may be brought to SARSEF competition for SRC approval before competition (but then should be taken home.)

Mold & Bacteria projects:

  • Mold: Bread mold projects (K-8) may be allowed at home ONLY if the study is stopped as soon as the mold is seen. (In other words, as soon as mold starts to grow, the bread is thrown away.)
  • Bacteria: At NO time is bacteria culturing allowed at home. Samples may be collected at home or in the environment, but they must then be taken to a laboratory (school or laboratory) to be grown. Please review ISEF rules for specifics regarding the type of bacteria that can be grown in a BSL 1 lab, etc.

Schools may set up the SRC/IRB, following SSP guidelines as a pre-screen, but the SARSEF SRC must evaluate all high school projects requiring prior review.

Many questions can be answered by an email or phone call to Dr. Paula Johnson (D.V.M.) at 621-3483. She can advise methods that will lead to approval, or counsel the student in a direction that will not run the risk of rejection by the SRC. Even after the phone call, if the project involves any of the SRC categories, approval must be obtained in writing on the HS ISEF forms before research is initiated. This applies to kindergarten through high school. This simple step can save potential conflict, embarrassment, and worse, failure to be allowed to exhibit at SARSEF. When in doubt, contact Dr. Johnson at email: SRC@sarsef.org or phone: 621-3483.

Choosing a Category

Category Selection Advisement

Many projects could easily fit into more than one category. It is the student’s decision to choose the category that most accurately describes their project, but they will need help.

Ask the following questions to help in the selection of a category:

  • Who will be the most qualified to judge the project? What area of expertise is the most important for the judge to have? (For example: a medical background or an engineering background)
  • What is the emphasis of the project? What characteristic of my project is the most innovative, unique or important? (For example, is it the application in medicine or the engineering of the machine? Is it inserting the proper gene or the method of computer mapping to demonstrate the results?)

See SARSEF Fair’s Categories here: https://sarsef.org/schools/teachers/categories/

Project Submission

All projects will be submitted virtually for the 2021 SARSEF Fair. 

If a student is sure that the judges will also need to examine a model or any physical component of the project, they are encouraged to have that item with them during the virtual interview with judges. 

What does a virtual project look like?

  • Projects will be presented using a slide deck created through Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Keynote. Students will not create a physical project board.
    • The entire presentation should be saved as a single .pdf document. (Sometimes this is called a “multi-page pdf.”) This .pdf will be uploaded to the SARSEF Fair website when registering.  
  • Slide decks will have a maximum of 15 slides.
    • One slide each for Title, Introduction, Research Question & Hypothesis/Prediction. As many slides as needed for Procedures, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, and References.
  • Project journals/lab notebooks can be completed physically or digitally. (Physical journal pages should be scanned to submit electronically.)
  • Example slide decks and resources for creating a digital lab notebook will be available by early November. 
  • While full ISEF submission specifications have not yet been released, they intend to require a similar presentation document. When those submission details are released, we will update our submission rules to include anything that fulfills their requirements.
  • Example project slide decks will be posted on the SARSEF website. 

Hints & Suggestions:

  • Text should be clear and readable. Make it visually interesting and inviting.
  • The title page will be used as the project thumbnail image on the virtual project floor.
  • Acknowledgments are not to be included in the slide deck, except for credits to images. Consider putting your acknowledgment and mentor appreciation in your logbook, not on the board.
  • If text is handwritten, or a physical display board is created for a school fair, the student, parent, teacher, or registrant must create a virtual submission for SARSEF. This may include images of the physical board.  
  • Suggestions and a template for digital lab notebooks will be shared on the SARSEF website, however, digital notebooks can be as simple as using a word document to record data.

Remember: How you display your project draws the viewer to it. The science in your project is what you want them to remember!

What Goes In the Project Slide Deck?

The following is a list of items that you may require an upper-elementary through high school student to include in their project slide deck. Feel free to adjust this list to fit your students’ grade level.

  • Slides should include all steps of the Scientific Method or Engineering Design Process.
    • You should have a slide on: Introduction, Background Research, Question and/or Prediction/Hypothesis, Methods or Procedures, Materials, Data and Results (inclusive of some charts and graphs), Conclusion, Discussion (inclusive of limitation — what would have made the project stronger and implications — why project was important). Optional: Operational definitions
  • Project Journal/Lab Notebook: This is the account of your project from idea conception through conclusion, including development and brainstorming for how to extend/expand your work next time. Date and initial all entries. This is proof you did the work!
    • This can be created physically or digitally, however, physical notebook pages will need to be scanned in order to submit electronically. 
  • Abstract: Middle school and high school: A 250 word or less summary of your entire project. Required at high school, and encouraged (but optional) for Grades K-8. 
  • Model, test equipment or items studied: If the student feels that devices or models must be shown, please have them available for the virtual live interviews with judges.
  • Photos/Diagrams: Photos are a great tool and recommended, but optional. Hand drawn diagrams are equally effective. Images of any sort must be accredited to the photographer, artist, magazine, website or other source. When photos include people, they are to be performing their experiment, not posing. Inappropriate photos of animals in other than their natural habitat will be removed by Display and Safety. ISEF Display and Safety Link, click here.
  • Applicable Forms: All projects that have been approved by the Scientific Review Committee or the Institutional Review Board must upload those forms during registration. High school projects not involving Scientific Review Committee or Institutional Review Board review will only require the basic International Science Engineering Fair Forms, depending on the project.
  • Slide Organization: Slide decks are creative masterpieces. All are different, yet all contain some fundamental information including: Problem statement, or question-and-hypothesis if used; methods, including materials and procedures; data; analytical procedures; results; conclusions; bibliography and abstract. Some projects discuss what the researchers would do next if the project was done again. 

Display and Safety Rules for SARSEF

Items Not Allowed At Project or In Booth

  • Living organisms, including plants. Mold, even if enclosed, and bacteria are NOT ALLOWED.
  • Taxidermy specimens or parts
  • Preserved vertebrate or invertebrate animals
  • Human or animal food
  • Human/animal parts or body fluids (for example, blood, urine). Teeth that have been decontaminated may be exhibited if kept in sealed containers.
  • Plant materials (living, dead or preserved) that are in their raw, unprocessed or non-manufactured state. (Exception: manufactured construction materials used in building the project or display)
  • Chemicals, including water
  • Poisons, drugs, controlled substances, hazardous substances or devices (for example, firearms, weapons, ammunition or reloading devices)
  • Dry ice or other sublimating solids
  • Sharp items (for example, syringes, needles, pipettes, knives)
  • Glass or glass objects, unless deemed by the Display and Safety Committee to be an integral and necessary part of the project (Exception: glass that is an integral part of a commercial product, such as a computer screen)
  • Flames or highly flammable materials
  • Batteries with open-top cells
  • Awards, medals, business cards, flags, endorsements and/or acknowledgments (graphic or written) — unless the item(s) are an integral part of the project. Display and Safety Committee decision
  • Photographs or other visual presentations depicting vertebrate animals in surgical techniques, dissections, necropsies or other lab procedures

Any apparatus deemed unsafe by the Scientific Review Committee or the Display and Safety Committee (for example, large vacuum tubes or dangerous ray-generating devices, empty tanks that previously contained combustible liquids or gases, pressurized tanks, etc.)

 

Items Allowed but with the Restrictions Indicated

  • Soil or waste samples, if permanently encased in a slab of acrylic
  • Postal addresses, World Wide Web and email addresses, telephone numbers and fax numbers of finalist only, and should be in journal or required forms only
  • Photographs and/or visual depictions, 
if:
  • They are not deemed offensive or inappropriate by the Scientific Review Committee and the Display and Safety Committee. This includes, but is not limited to, visually offensive photographs or visual depictions of invertebrate or vertebrate animals, including humans. The decision by any one of the groups mentioned above is final.
  • Credit lines (“Photograph taken by …” or “Image taken from …”) are attached. If all photographs on display were taken by the finalist, or are from the same source, one credit line prominently displayed is sufficient.
  • They are from the Internet, magazines, newspapers, journals, etc., and credit lines are attached. If all photographs/images are from the same source, one credit prominently displayed is sufficient.
  • They are photographs or visual depictions of the finalist doing the project, not portrait style.
  • They are photographs of human subjects for which signed consent forms are at the project, or in the booth.
  • Any apparatus with unshielded belts, pulleys, chains or moving parts with tension or pinch points if for display only and not operated
  • Any apparatus producing temperatures that will cause physical burns that it is adequately insulated for safety

 

Every Child. Thinking Critically. Solving Problems.

Top