Colorado Science & Engineering Fair

Student Researchers utilizing chemicals (household and laboratory) in their studies should consider all of the following when completing their Risk Assessment Form 3.

  • Chemicals must be acquired and used in accordance with all local, state and federal laws. Please note that there are certain chemicals that are banned for use in Colorado schools.

  • The Student Researcher must review the Materials Safety Data Sheets for ALL chemicals (household and laboratory) used in the project.

  • For all chemicals requiring a federal and/or state permit, the Designated Supervisor must obtain the permit PRIOR to experimentation and a copy of the permit must be submitted to the Regional Science Fair and/or CSEF in order for the project to qualify for competition.

  • The Student Researcher should take into account a chemical's toxicity, reactivity, flammability and corrosiveness when completing the risk assessment form.

  • The Student Researcher must minimize the impact of an experiment on the environment by using minimal quantities of chemicals and making sure all disposal is done in an environmentally safe manner and in accordance with good laboratory practices.

The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates the production of alcohol and distribution of alcohol and tobacco products. Special precautions must be taken when Student Researchers work on projects that include alcohol and/or tobacco, given their age.

  • Fermentation studies in which small quantities of ethyl alcohol are produced are permitted.

  • It is the responsibility of the Designated Supervisor to properly acquire, store and dispose of any alcohol and/or tobacco used in the study. Remember that Colorado law prohibits alcohol and drugs on school property.

  • Student Researchers are allowed to design and conduct research projects, under DIRCT parental supervision involving the LEGAL production of wine or beer. It is the responsibility of the Designated Supervisor to make sure the home production meets all of the TTB regulations for such production.

  • Studies involving the production of consumable ethyl alcohol by distillation are PROHIBITED.

  • Studies involving the production of ethyl alcohol by distillation for fuel or other non-consumable products are allowed at a school or regulated research institution.

Studies involving unmanned aircraft systems/drones, must follow all federal, state and local laws. Typically, a permit or registration of the aircraft will be required for certain sized drones/unmanned aircraft to be flown outside. Check out the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website for more details.

The Risk Assessment Form 3 is a good form for ALL students to complete, even if it isn't necessarily required as the questions really get them to think about safety.

IMPORTANT: Please note that not all rules and guidelines are listed on this web site, please review more about ISEF rules regarding Vertebrate Animal research to make sure you are in compliance and can compete in the CSEF competition.

***COVID-19 Pandemic Public Health Requirements***

Due to the special circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2019, the Colorado State Science Fair is asking that ALL students include in their risk assessment how they will mitigate the spread of the disease while conducting their experiment. Examples of such mitigations include (but are not limited to):

  • Wearing a face covering while conducting experiments outside of the home environment.
  • Maintaining a 6-foot distance from people no in the researcher's immediate social bubble. This is especially important when conducting human participant projects.
  • Washing hands frequently.
  • Keeping work space clean and disinfected. This is especially important if the student is working in a shared space.
  • When working with human participants, consider virtual or online options and avoid in-person projects.

Student researchers and supervising adults should be aware of guidance or regulations from the state, county and local officials as well as their school districts or research facilities. The safety of the entire community should be a priority.

Note: Just because many schools are teaching students remotely this year, does not mean that the rules regarding what can and cannot be done in a home environment have changed. Student researchers must still follow all of the guidelines regarding where PHBA, Vertebrate Animal and Human Participant projects must take place. If there is any doubt, contact the regional or CSEF SRC before starting experimentation. SSP has put together some resources for doing research at home. More information and guidance can be found on the Colorado Department of Education's Health & Safety website.

For additional help in completing Form 3, watch the Form 3 Help Video.

It is important that ALL potentially hazardous chemicals, activities and/or devices that will be used in the project be included under #1 and answer the remaining questions for each one. Be very specific and provide as much detail as possible to avoid future questions when the SRC reviews it for competition.

Use your Research Plan as a guide as to what to include and make sure to include items that are used to build parts of the project as well.

If a student isn't going to be directly using a tool or device, but merely assisting, please indicate this under the description of safety precautions and procedures (#3).

The Sources of Safety Information (#5) should be done in the same manner as a reference cited list is done.

Just as a scientist needs to be qualified in the area of research that a student is working in, a Designated Supervisor may need to explain their qualifications. For example, if a student were using power tools, it would be appropriate to have someone who is a carpenter by trade supervising the student, even though the parent or teacher may know how to use the tools. Being MOM or DAD is not necessarily qualification enough to supervise a project using hazardous chemicals or devices. You can have more than one Designated Supervisor for different hazards (complete separate Form 3's for each one).

Student Researchers and Designated Supervisors should think about ALL potentially hazardous devices, chemicals and/or activities that might be associated with the project they are working on and how to best keep everyone safe. The following are commonly overlooked hazards:

  • Excessive computer use - OSHA has several references that help to recognize potential hazards associated with extensive computer use and possible solutions for those hazards.

  • Household chemicals and solutions should be treated the same as laboratory chemicals and students should read the Materials Safety Data Sheets that can be found on-line on how to safely use them - especially if they are using them for purposes other than their intended household us in a science project.

  • Cooking stoves and ovens should be treated the same as laboratory devices - especially when heating items to high temperatures.

  • Students should be clear in their research plan about the type of tools (manual or power) they plan on using when constructing parts of their project.

The following are simple samples of projects with different types of hazards involved.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT) regulates the purchase and use of firearms and explosives. Special precautions must be taken when a Student Researcher utilizes firearms and/or explosives in a project.

  • A firearm is defined as a weapon from which a projectile is fired by gunpowder.

  • An explosive is any chemical compound, mixture or device whose primary purpose is to function by explosion.

  • It is the responsibility of the properly TRAINED Designated Supervisor to lawfully purchase any firearms and/or ammunition to be used by the Student Researcher.

  • A diagram of the shooting area must be included with the Research Plan. All buildings and roads need to be included in the diagram as well as where the Student Researcher will be shooting from and the target area.

  • Studies involving firearms and ammunition are allowable under the DIRECT supervision of a Designated Supervisor who has completed a hunter safety program or similar firearms safety course. Proof of training will be required when submitting paperwork to the Regional Science Fair and the CSEF for competition.

  • Student Researchers using firearms in a project must have completed a hunter safety course. Proof of training will be required when submitting paperwork to the Regional Science Fair and the CSEF for competition. The Colorado Parks & Wildlife provide hunter safety classes.

  • Projects involving explosives are allowable under the DIRECT supervision of a Designated Supervisor and when in compliance with all federal, state and local laws.

  • Studies involving a fully assembled rocket motor, reload kit or propellant modules containing more than 62.5 grams of propellant are subject to the permitting, storage and other requirements of federal explosive laws and regulations.

  • Although bows and arrows are not considered firearms, the Student Researcher and Designated Supervisor should have appropriate training in the safe use of such weapons. The Colorado Parks & Wildlife provide bow hunter education classes.

  • Potato guns and paint ball guns are not considered firearms, unless they are intended to be used as weapons, but they must be treated as hazardous devices.

Prescription drugs are drugs regulated by federal laws to protect against inappropriate or unsafe use. Special precautions must be taken when Student Researchers utilize prescription drugs in a project.

  • It is the responsibility of the Designated Supervisor to properly acquire the drugs from a doctor or pharmacist, using a prescription written out specifically for "Science Fair research ONLY" and NOT to an individual.

  • All prescription drugs used in a student research project must be kept in a locked cabinet, accessible by the Designated Supervisor ONLY, when not being used by the Student Researcher.

  • Any unused prescription drugs must be disposed of in a proper manner by the Designated Supervisor.


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Last modified 9/8/20