2022 Frequently Asked Questions

What does a student need in order to participate in a regional fair?

A student needs:

  • An original, grade appropriate research project (project should not be a validation of research)
    • All projects must follow the rules and safety in research requirements linked on the NCSEF student information pages and students must complete required forms for their project. (ISEF Forms Wizard)
  • A digital project presentation of their research and a corresponding quad chart.
    • NCSEF participants will need a quad chart and project presentation slides, both of these must be in landscape orientation as per the guidelines below.  
    • Links to templates for required presentation and quad chart can be found at:
    • Detailed Instructions for Project Submissions* (Draft, ISEF may make small adjustments)
    • Optional Materials
      All judges will have access to these optional materials, just as they would at a project booth, but these are considered supplemental and NOT required.
      • Video Demonstration/Simulation/Animation (1 minute maximum) - If a project is best explained by showing a demonstration, simulation or animation, you may include a short video. This video must meet all Display & Safety regulations.
      • Research Paper - NCSEF does not require any project to include a research paper. However, many finalists have completed such a paper through the research process and would include it at their booth during an in person fair. If you have prepared such a paper, you may upload it to share with judges, though judges are not required to review it.
      • Lab Notebook Image/Excerpt - NCSEF does not require any project to submit a laboratory notebook. However, many finalists have this record of their research timeline and process and typically have it available at their booth. A student may upload a PDF of up to 4 pages of a lab notebook to provide evidence of its use, but it is strongly advised NOT to share the notebook in totality to protect your intellectual property.
  • To register to attend the regional fair
    • Students can either:
      • Be advanced from a local/county fair competition
      • Reach out to the regional director directly to register (this option is open to students who do not have a local/county competition)

Students can learn more about designing a project and participating in a fair through the student information pages on the NCSEF website.

If I am a teacher or parent who is interested in supporting a student(s) through the research process, how can I learn more?

Teachers and parents can learn about supporting students through the research and competition process by exploring the teacher and student resources on the NCSEF website. 

What categories of research are acceptable?

Students can compete with original research in any of the following areas:

Elementary Division Categories (Grades 3-5) - All Elementary projects will be equally eligible for Exemplary and Honorable Mention awards (more on awards here)

    • Biological Sciences
    • Physics, and Math
    • Chemistry
    • Earth and Environmental Sciences
    • Engineering and Technology

Junior (Grades 6-8) and Senior (Grades 9-12) Division Categories - Junior and Senior projects receive place awards according to category (more on awards here)

    • Biological Sciences A
    • Biological Sciences B
    • Chemistry
    • Earth and Environmental Sciences
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Mathematics, Statistics, and Data Science
    • Technology

More details and category descriptions here.


How many students can participate?

A project can have 1, 2, or 3 students.  School districts and groups should contact the Regional Fair Director to determine the numbers of projects allowed for the Regional Competition.  Contact information for each region is here.

What grade levels are allowed to participate in the competitions?

The NC Science Fair Foundations supports competitions for NC Students in grades 3-12.  Grade levels compete in three different divisions; Elementary Division (Grades 3-5), Junior Division (Grades 6-8), and Senior Division (Grades 9-12).  

Can any NC student participate in NC Science and Engineering Fair Competitions?

NC students, whether enrolled in public, private, or homeschool in grades 3-12 are eligible to compete in science and engineering competitions so long as they meet all of the competition requirements. 

Where can I learn more about the safety requirements for student research?

As an ISEF affiliated organization, NCSFF requires students that are competing to follow the ISEF regulations for safe research.  You can review the ISEF rules, regulations, and forms here.

How will judging happen for the virtual fair?

Student project materials will be made available to judges to review in advance of the competition date.  Students will be assigned a time to participate in a virtual interview with judges on the day of competition.

Where can I find regional fair information?

The NC Science and Engineering Fair website has a page dedicated to regional fair information. Fair dates, location, and contact information for each region are here.

What if my child’s school or county does not have a local competition?

Students who live in a county where there is no local competition can work with the Regional Director in their region to register as a competitor in the regional science and engineering fair.  Regional fair directors’ contact information is here.

Can a student register for the NC State Science and Engineering Fair (NCSEF) without competing in a regional competition?

No, students must compete in an NC Regional Fair in their area of the state and be nominated from that Regional Fair for promotion to the NC Statewide Science and Engineering Fair.

What do I do if we need financial assistance to compete in the NC State Science and Engineering Fair (NCSEF)?

The NC Science Fair Foundation is able to offer limited financial assistance to families that have a financial barrier to access for the State competition.  To apply for financial assistance, please complete this form and you will be contacted by a representative of the Foundation.              

How does a student participate in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)?

In order to participate in the ISEF competition students must be nominated for promotion from an ISEF affiliated fair competition.  The NC State Science and Engineering Fair is an affiliated fair and is able to nominate up to 12 projects annually to participate in ISEF.  The NC Science Fair Foundation covers registration and travel expenses for all students nominated to compete in the International Competition.