Welcome to the Science and Engineering Fair

Important Dates & Times



>>> JUDGES, please REGISTER by creating an account using the tab on the TOP NAV BAR! <<<

WHAT: TNRSEF is an internationally affiliated science and engieering fair serving students in Akwesasne, and St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties of Northern New York state. Affiliation with the International Science and Engineering Fair and this zFairs portal are sponsored by Terra Science and Education.

WHO: TNRSEF invites middle and high school students (including home-schooled students) to participate. (Teams of up to three students are welcome to work together on projects.)



  • First round judging of TNRSEF 2021 entries will be Tuesday March 23rd, 2021 between 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm EST.
  • Second round of judging will be Friday March 26, 2021 between 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm EST. 
  • Due to the COVID pandemic, this year's presentations and judging will be conducted virtually, using a secure portal provided by zFairs. Student and Mentor registration will begin December 1, 2020, using the navigation tabs on this page.


Much more information about participating for students and teachers is found in the corresponding tabs at the top of this page. If you are ready to begin now, start by creating an account, using the Create Account menu at the top of the page.



Especially for Studentsrtf.png

We'll be honest--there's a lot of words on this page! Much of this information is intended to be "motivating" but, really, who's going to be motivated by walls of text? And the rest will only mean something once you have been motivated and begin to get into the details. So, if you need motivation, start at Questions: the Origin of Your Project (and be ready to be motivated). The other links are nice, but you probably don't want to look at those if you need motivation! (But, really, you'll thank us someday for including them here!)


2021 Paperwork for ALL Projects 

All Projects for the 2021 virtual fair need to complete the Terra Media Release form and the Terra Safety Forms and submit on zFairs.


What are you waiting for? 

Fame, glory, and a place in the Pantheon of Great Thinkers awaits. Sign up--do it now--by creating an account (top of the page). Thereafter, when you come back and log in, you will be dropped onto a "student" page with loads of information and a detailed "roadmap," designed to guide you through the steps for beginning, "doing" and communicating your project. Galileo, Newton, Curie, Einstein... All of those great ones made their contributions--and left a lot of questions unanswered. It's your turn: your adventure begins now!

See you at the fair!


Questions:  The Origins of Your Project!

Do you have a question?  "I remember as a kid, watching flames flicker in a fireplace and wondering, Why is fire the color that it is? Why are flames yellow, rather than, say, green or pink? I had a small chemistry set I'd received as a gift and began to burn all sorts of materials, discovering that in fact, many substances burned with a characteristic color, some even bright green." Have you closely observed the low string on a guitar while it is sounding and wondered why it has 'nodes,' places where there seems to be no vibration? Perhaps you have noticed that crickets chirp more frequently during warm weather than in the cold, and that flowers in a garden tend to grow towards the light. Have you ever wondered why rotting meat smells so much worse than spoiling vegetables? Do you dream "in color?" 

(Don't stop reading: it will only take a few minutes to finish! Yeah, we know: "wall of text, yadda, yadda, yadda" but we don't get to talk to you in-person these days, and you'd not want to see the video we made. Promise.)

Science "happens" because curious people ask questions and then try to find answers. One of the most important physicists of the modern era, Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, described experiements he conducted while trying to rid his pantry of ants, discovering that AlfredFSA_intent upon an experiment copy.pngthey followed chemical trails and could be easily diverted. (Google "Feynman ant trails" to read the story.) Scientists begin with a question, make an educated guess as to the answer (the guess is called an hypothesis), and create experiements to gather evidence to support or refute the hypothesis. (Finding that an hypothesis doesn't hold up can be as important--and exciting--as finding support.) 

A science fair project is anchored in this process, often called the "scientific method." For example, Question: Why does the wind blow? Hypothesis: Wind is caused by trees waving their branches. (You might be surprised at how common this misconception is among young children--but most often in areas where there are plenty of trees!) Experimental Procedure: Record the wind speeds over a period of weeks in environments with and without trees. Analysis: does the collected data support or refute your hypothesis? A science fair project results in a report on the results of your experiement to answer a question: Communicate: create a poster to present your question, hypothesis, experiement, collected data, analysis and conclusion to others.

You might think, "I don't have any important questions--everything I want to know has already been answered." It is true that many questions have been asked and many experiments have been performed. But a question that is important to you--even if someone else has studied it--can be the basis for a great science fair project. Even questions that "have been decided" can be researched and challenged: every serious study is important and worthwhile: too often, we assume that our questions have been irrefutably answered. That's not the way science is "done." There is always reason to look again, to look more carefully or through a different lens. It might sound simplistic, but if a question is important to you, makes you curious to find an answer, then it is worth asking. 

Not for you? Keep reading!  Does the very sound of the word "science" make you cringe? Science--(sorry) "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment"--is a whole lot broader than you might think. Consider these inquiries that might be great projects!

  • Are you one of those who wake up just ahead of your alarm clock? Does that really happen often, or do you only notice it when it does?
  • Do you play hockey? Have you ever thought about how the temperature of the ice affects the way the puck moves?
  • "Old people" claim that they can predict the weather by "listening to" their bodies. Really?
  • Like listening to music? How does your heart rate sync up with the beat?
  • How does the addition of salt affect the amount of water that pasta absorbs while cooking?
  • Do tropical fish learn to recognize the faces of those who feed them?

You will notice that none of those "ideas" include the words "biology," "psychology," "zoology," "geology"... no "ology" at all, in fact. But each of those--and countless other questions--can be answered with a little research. Our lives are filled with questions. How often during a day do you ask, "I wonder if..." or assert, "That doesn't make any difference!" Time to find out! In a nicely organized, documented way. Then tell others what you have discovered. (And we'll pretend that you didn't do "science.") The truth is we each do a little bit of science every day. What turns our everyday questioning into a science fair project? Keeping track of how you found your answer and sharing your results with others. It’s not quite the same as simply saying, “I ‘Googled’ it,” but you get the big idea: scientific inquiry can help answer many of the questions we encounter on a daily basis (and even convince others)—and it's something each of us can do.

You can do this! And you won't be doing it alone. Your teacher or another mentor will be along to help you form your hypothesis, prepare a research plan, and collect and assess your data. If you have friends who are interested in the same questions that intrigue you, projects teams of up to three "researchers" can work together on a project.

Topic Presentation or Research / Engineering Design?

Before getting too far into the weeds... Your project will either be a Topic Presentation or Research / Engineering Design.
  • Research / Engineering Design projects are those for which you conduct an experiment and collect data that attempts to support (or refute) a hypothesis [Research] or for which you design something (like a device or machine) and iteratively improve the design by measuring its performance [Engineering Design]. In either of these cases, there is an emphasis on methodically collecting and analyzing data. The project (question, experimental procedure, data, analysis and conclusion) is presented to fair judges in the form of a poster
  • Topic Presentation projects involve studying and discussing with experts what is known about a science question or engineering design that really interests you. Your project will involve conveying what you have learned by making a poster or model that you share with judges at the fair.

Often, students will begin a multi-year science fair experience with a Topic Presentation that provides an opportuntiy to gain the background necessary to conduct a research or engineering design project in a subsequent year. However, there is no requirement that a research student must do a Topic Presentation first; conversely, many superb Topic Presentations are not intended as stepping stones, but rather just provide a great learning experience. Research / Engineering Design projects typically require more time and rigor and often require significant planning, materials and collaboration in addition to obtaining necessary approvals for projects that pose potential risks to those involved in experiments or evaluating designs.

(When you begin to enter information about your project, you will be asked to choose a category. If you are planning a Topic Presentation project, please use TOPIC as the category, regardless of the subject area. Those planning a Research / Engineering Design project, please select the appropriate category for your subject area.)

Roles and Vocabulary

When one begins a new endeavor, such as a science fair project, it is important to take a few minutes to become familiar with the jargon, roles and rules that apply. Jargon is especially important since some familiar words often have very specific meanings in special contexts. Science fairs have special jargon that is useful to clearly communicate, and especialy with people you probably won't know but who are volunteering their time to help you. 

The definitions below are intended to be helpful, but not "definitive." There are many online resources that you might find helpful, particularly the Society for Science and the Public (which hosts the International Science and Engineering Fairs) website has several very useful pages, including one on Roles and Responsibilities and another on Rules for All Projects. Until you have time to read through those pages, the definitions below should help.

  • [Student] Researcher. Of course, this is you. You might be part of a team of up to three students or work independently. (There is really no limit on how many researchers can be involved in a project, but only three team members will "count.")
  • [Adult] Sponsor. The sponsor is probably a teacher, but could be a parent or guardian, a coach, professor, engineer or other person familiar with your research category. Your sponsor will help keep you design your research plan, especially with regard to ensuring the safety of particants (including you, any human subjects, vertebates, etc.).
  • Qualified Scientist. In some cases, laws and research regulations require that an expert in the scientific area of a project review the research plan to assure it meets exacting legal, procedural and safety requirements. As well, the Qualified Scientist will monitor the progress of the research. Note that the qualified scientist can be your sponsor, but often, that will not be the case.
  • [Designated] Supervisor. If your project requires a Qualified Scientist who is unable to personally supervise your research, a designated supervisor will fill that role. Generally, your sponsor will fill this role.
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB). Projects that involve human subjects must be reviewed by  the members of an IRB before research begins. The responsibility of the IRB is to ensure that human subjects will not be physically or psychologically harmed by their participation in a research project. Fortunately, it is not your responsibility to organize this review, but you will need to have the necessary approvals and documentation prepared before an IRB can evaluate your project. Again, IRB approval is required before your reserach begins!
  • Science Review Committee (SRC). The SRC is a committee that reviews projects involving human subjects, animals, biological agents, hazardous chemicals or materials, etc. The SRC is responsible for the safety of reserachers, research subjects, facilities, etc. For many projects detailed SRC review is not required, but the SRC reviews all projects submitted to a regional fair, regardless. Projects requiring specific SRC review should obtain SRC approval before research begins. (SRC review is not required for projects that have been approved by an IRB so long as that review is documented.)

The Road Map


2021 Paperwork for ALL Projects 

All Projects for the 2021 virtual fair need to complete the Terra Media Release form and the Terra Safety Forms and submit on zFairs.


Why a Science Fair Project?

"Throughout my early childhood, my mother taught me to ask questions. She spent countless hours creating demonstrations of principles like condensation, and thermal convection while helping her young son fabricate plaster models of cells, and supporting his attempts to create recording devices based on paper cones, sewing needles and wax cylinders. There was a limit to mother's expertise and resources, but not her encouragement. She lit a flame. 

"In ninth grade, I was privileged to spend a year in the classroom of an extraordinary teacher. Science wasn't taught by talking but by doing. It seemed that every class was devoted to a new experiment or demonstration: heat absorbtion and transfer, discovering the enzymes in saliva (gross!) that convert starch to sugar, electrolysis of water (and the 'rapid burning' of the resulting hydrogen gas!), the seasonal consequence of earth's axial tilt, solubility of minerals... There seemed to be no end to her inventiveness. Most important, there were no questions that I could ask, no experiments I could propose that were set aside, so I spent many early-morning and after-school hours assembling experiments to study Brownian motion, crystal growth, odor diffusion... simply because I expressed an interest and willingness to try. My teacher took me to a science fair and when I won, to a recognition luncheon."

LIkely, you are (or would be) such a teacher, and doubtless, you have such students. 

With today's educational "best practice" emphasis on project-based learning, critical analysis, "thinking made visible," and the importance of fostering curiosity, intellectual independence and grit--and espeically the current need to engage students bored with remote learning--consider the impact that participation in a science fair will have on your students. And if not all of your students, because you are still reading, there are doubtless several that you are already teaming up in your mind! 

The Mentor's Role

Your role will be some blend of mentor, guide and cheer-leader. Science fair projects do not need to be daunting to be successful. What students need most is encouragement, review and (yeah--here it comes) someone to keep them moving forward: question, hypothesis, experiment, analysis and communication. You don't need to be an expert in animal science, you don't need to be a virologist (although, we've all been getting schooled in that field, it seems), you are not responsible for understanding the protocols for collecting data from human subjects--the Fair staff has a Science Review Committee that includes experts in those areas and they will be engaged with you and your students to ensure that the experiements are safe and meet established standards. Nope, you need to encourage, review and push--a little!

In order for students to participate, they need a teacher or other adult mentor to stand beside them, as  just described. Sign up now by creating an account (at the top of the page), then when your students register, they can identify you as their teacher. Thereafter, when you log on, you will be dropped on a tab that has resources we hope are helpful for mentoring students through their adventures and for monitoring their progress. And you won't be alone, you will see every communication between the fair staff and subject matter experts and your students--and we may even send you a few ideas along the way. Getting to the fair--it's all about the kids.

Grants and Funding

Resource Application Due Amount of Funding Duration More Information
Capacity Building Grant October 15th of EACH year $1,000- $5,000 Schools may apply for this grant Each Year https://terraed.org/grants.html
STEM Fair Fellowship February 1st

$500 stipend
$500 for project materials

Renewal for up to Two Years https://terraed.org/fellowships.html

Terra Science Fair Grant
(To start your own local fair)

October 1st $1,000 STEM Fair Fellows not eligible https://terraed.org/grants.html

Additional District Awards:

The school district that sends the most students to the fair will receive $1,500 from Terra. The district with the second highest number of participants will be awarded $1,000, and the district with the third most participants will be awarded $500.

Student Project Fees and Payment

To pay for your students' project(s) via Credit, Debit or PayPal, please use this link: PayPal

If you are paying by check, please make checks payable to Terra Science & Education (include TNRSEF and your students' name(s) on the memo line) and mail to:

Terra Fairs c/o Karen Valentino
835 West Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13204



Welcome, Future Judges at the TNRSEF!
First round: Tuesday, March 23 2:30-6:00 p.m.
Second round: Friday, March 26 2:30-6:00 p.m.

Judging_two girls with judge.png

>>> JUDGES, please REGISTER by creating an account using the tab on the TOP NAV BAR! <<<

Would you like to judge a science fair?
We hope so and if you have a high school diploma, we have a place for you!

Our goals

  1. Encourage students’ pursuit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  2. Showcase students’ science and engineering research.
  3. Excite students about returning to next year’s science fair.

Who can be a science fair judge?
Junior Division RED and Topic: High School graduates including current college students qualify to judge Junior level projects.
Senior Division RED: College graduates in STEM fields and education, and journeymen in the skilled trades are welcome to judge at both levels.
View the list of categories here.

How will judging be done this year?
This year we will be entirely virtual.  Judges will be divided into teams responsible for a particular category, topic or special award. They will have the opportunity to view each project's materials before joining a live video or audio chat session where they will be able to interview the students.  Judges will again meet privately to deliberate. There will be training opportunities before live judging days.

Depending on the number of projects in the fair and the number of judges available during live sessions, we may spread judging sessions out over a few days.  We hope that this will allow the maximum number of students and judges to fit the fair into their schedules.

When should I register as a judge?
Please register as early as possible. This will help us make sure we have enough judges in appropriate categories and schedule the live sessions in time to notify everyone.
Seven to ten days before the fair, you will receive an e-mail with your assignment (Junior, Senior, Topic Presentation, Special Awards). If you are an experienced judge, you may be selected as a team captain.

Judging Do's and Don'ts

Rule #1:
I will recuse myself if I have any connection to the student, project, school, family or friends.

Rule #2:
I will make this an educational and motivating experience for every kid! The high point of the fair for most students will be MY judging interviews. I will encourage all the participants.

Rule #3:
I will remember that judges represent professional authority to students. So I will use an encouraging tone when asking questions, offering suggestions or giving constructive criticism. I will NOT criticize, treat lightly or act bored toward projects that seem unimportant to me. THE PROJECT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE STUDENT. I willl thank each student for the hard work and accomplishment.

Rule #4:
I will be discreet! I will discuss students and projects only INSIDE the Judge Deliberation Area! Students, parents or teachers may overhear other discussions or receive an email by mistake. ALL results are confidential. No details regarding deliberations are EVER discussed outside the Judges’ Deliberation Area before or afterwards.

Detailed information about judging is in the following documents:
Judging Rubrics Though judging will be conducted using online tools, this Research and Engineering Design rubric is the framework we will use.

Registered judges will receive specific training for the zFairs judging interface.

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