Colorado Science & Engineering Fair

The Student Checklist (1A) should be completed in conjunction with the Research Plan. On this form, students should outline what the project is about. Items that especially need to be clear are:

  • The school address (#3) should be the PHYSICAL address along with the mailing address if they are different. Remember, research cannot be conducted in a PO Box!

  • The Adult Sponsor (#4) MUST be the SAME person who is going to sign the Adult Sponsor Checklist Form 1.

  • Any project conducted in a similar area of research as previous project by the student should be considered a continuation (#7). If the project is a continuation, explain on Form 7 how the project will differ from previous work because ONLY a new and different project is allowed. The current year's project must demonstrate significant progress.

  • The Start Date (#8) must be the date that the student began his/her laboratory and/or data collection work - not when the background or library research began.

  • The End Date (#8) must be the date that the student stopped his/her laboratory and/or data collection work - not when data analysis or work on the board was completed. ONLY a 12-month project that occurred within the last 18 months before the next CSEF is allowed.

  • Field Research (#9) refers to data collection that is done away from the school, home and/or research institution (i.e.: collection of data at different stream site around the state, collection of surveys at sites such as businesses and/or schools other than the student's, observations done in public areas, etc.) If there is field work done, a list of ALL sites and address if possible (GPS locations if not) are required to be attached to Form 1A.

  • Universities, research facilities and industrial work site settings (#9) will require additional documentation on Form 1C to explain what was done at each facility.

If a student wants to continue collecting data between competitions (i.e.: after the Regional Science Fair and before CSEF), then an amendment to this form should be done stating that the student will be collecting more data and give the newly anticipated end date AS LONG AS THE PROCEDURES DO NOT CHANGE!

The Checklist for Adult Sponsors (1) should be done once the Student Checklist (1A) and Research Plan are near completion. Adult Sponsors should pay close attention to the following:

  • This form is to be used by the Adult Sponsor when reviewing a student's research plan to make sure the proper approvals and oversight are acquired BEFORE research/experimentation on the project begins. This means it should be signed and dated BEFORE the research start date listed on Form 1A, attesting to the fact that the Adult Sponsor has indeed done his/her job in guiding the student researcher.

  • If the Adult Sponsor feels that more detail is needed in the Research Plan, he/she should not sign this form until it is corrected.

Please note that the Adult Sponsor should sign and date this form according to the date of REVIEW and APPROVAL and not the date of signature. This is useful if the students have research notebooks and the teacher reviews and initials those before transferring everything to the CSEF forms.

The Approval Form (1B) should be completed once the Student Checklist (1A), the Research Plan, the Checklist for Adult Sponsors (1) and any other needed forms for the type of project are all complete.

  • The student should review the research plan with his/her parents/guardian and they should sign this form together. This must be done BEFORE the student can begin laboratory/data collection work.

  • If prior Scientific Review Committee (SRC) approval for the use of vertebrate animals and/or potentially hazardous biological agents and/or Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for use of human subjects is required, then all paperwork must be sent to the appropriate SRC/IRB for review and approval (#2 box 1 should be marked) BEFORE the student can begin laboratory/data collection work.

  • If prior SRC/IRB approval is required and the student is working at a REGULATED Research Institution like a university AND they obtained the necessary approvals from that institution, then the local SRC/IRB can give approval (#2 box 2 should be marked) AFTER the project is complete, but PRIOR to competition. The student must have a Form 1C and any required institutional approvals in hand.

  • Just prior to the student's Regional Science Fair, the Regional SRC will review the paperwork and will approve (#3) the project for competition.

  • If a student is selected to attend the CSEF, just prior to that competition, the CSEF SRC will review all paperwork and will approve (#4) the project for competition.

IMPORTANT: Please note that even though a local school SRC/IRB may have approved a project prior to experimentation, a regional or state SRC can deem that the local review body made a mistake and refuse to allow the project for competition for not following the rules and guidelines.


The Research Plan MUST be TYPED and should be completed in conjunction with the Student Checklist (1A). When submitting this document to be reviewed, please make sure the following sections (if applicable to the project) are clearly identified:

  • Rationale: Include a brief synopsis of the background that supports your research problem and explain why this research is important and if applicable, explain any societal impacts of your research.

  • Research Question(s), Hypothesis(es), Engineering Goal(s), Expected Outcomes: How is this based on the rationale described above?

  • Procedures: Detail all procedures and experimental design, including methods for data collection. Describe only your project and not work done by mentors or others.

  • Risk & Safety: Identify any potential risks and safety precautions needed.

  • Data Analysis: Describe the procedures you will use to analyze the data/results.

  • Bibliography: List major references from your literature review. If you plan to use vertebrate animals, one of these references must be an animal care reference.

  • Human Subjects Research must also who the subjects will be; how the subjects will be recruited; what the subjects will be asked to do (IN DETAIL!); what the potential risks or discomforts might be to the subjects; what the potential benefits to society and/or each subject might be; how privacy will be protected; and how informed consent will be obtained.

  • Vertebrate Animal Research must also include potential alternatives and a justification to the use of vertebrate animals; the potential impact or contribution this study may have; detailed procedures that include how discomfort, pain and injury to the animals will be minimized and what chemical concentrations and drug dosages will be used (if applicable); exactly how many animals will be used and what type; exactly what the housing and oversight will be for each type of animal; and exactly what will be done with the animals once the study is over.

  • Potentially Hazardous Biological Agent Research must also include how the Biosafety Level was determined; exactly where the agent, cell line, etc. is being obtained; exactly what the safety precautions being taken are; and exactly how and where the biological agents will be disposed of when the study is over.

A post project summary should be completed (different from the Abstract) for projects that are moving on to the CSEF. It is a paragraph that summarizes what was actually done during experimentation that might have been different from the original research plan. It is also an opportunity for engineering/computer science/mathematics projects to explain the evolution of the design process.

An Abstract must be completed once the project is completed and all analysis and conclusions are done. Students should pay close attention to the following:

  • Students may use the CSEF Individual Project Abstract or Team Project Abstract for their Regional Science Fair competition if required.

  • CSEF Finalists MUST use the on-line CSEF Abstract form (individual or team) and NOT the Intel ISEF abstract form.

  • Abstracts should be written in the past tense and should include the objective(s) of the study, the general procedure(s) used, the results of the study and the significance of the results.

  • The abstract should not include acknowledgments (such as referencing mentors or laboratories involved in the project).

For additional help in writing an abstract, view this power point presentation.

ALL students using the CSEF Middle School forms MUST have a designated supervisor and complete a Risk Assessment Form (3) - even if the answer to question #1 is "No Known Hazards".

  • It is important that ALL potentially hazardous chemicals, activities and/or devices that will be used in the project be included under #3 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 (#5).

  • The Sources of Safety Information (#7) 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.

A Regulated Research Institutional/Industrial Setting Form (1C) is completed AFTER experimentation is completed at a research institution (RRI)or an industrial setting. Mentors completing this form should pay close attention to the following:

  • If only part of a student's research is completed at the RRI or industrial setting, then this form can be completed at any time after the research start date and does not have to wait until all experimentation is completed, but this might be noted on the form somewhere for clarification.

  • Unless a student just came to the lab to use equipment, then ALL questions need to be completed.

  • Pay close attention to the statement in the signature box - if the student did the research at an RRI, then that institution must have given their approval if it involves human subjects, vertebrate animals or potentially hazardous biological agents.

For example, Colorado State University has its own Regulatory Compliance Board and if a student were to go there to do a research project with a professor (or anyone else), the student's research must be approved by this board and the CSU board overrides any decision a school IRB/SRC may have made regarding the study, as the school has no jurisdiction at CSU.



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Last modified 11/4/19