The following is the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) ethics statement and rules for eligibility, safety, entry, and exhibits. Relevant New rules have been highlighted.

The OCSEF Board of Directors want all students to have the opportunity to compete fairly. The following regulations keep projects uniform for judging and ensure that they abide by the laws of the State of California, the State of California Education Code, and the Rules of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). The complete ISEF rules are found at https://student.societyforscience.org/rules-all-projects and additional guidance can be found at the ISEF website at https://student.societyforscience.org/. It is important to note that that OCSEF uses its own Forms, which are available on this website (i.e. OCSEF.org). For these reasons, the Rules will be strictly enforced.


  1. Scientific fraud and misconduct are not condoned at any level of research or competition. This includes plagiarism (use or presentation of others research work as your own), fabrication, or falsification of research data. Projects found to be fraudulent will not be allowed to qualify in the OCSEF. Both OCSEF and ISEF reserve the right to revoke recognition of projects subsequently found to be fraudulent.


  3. Projects must present either an experiment exemplifying scientific methodology or a project utilizing the engineering process.

  4. 6th-12th grade students attending an Orange County school (public or private), including home-schoolers living in Orange County may enter the Fair.
    • Students in grades 9-12 are considered the Senior Division.
    • Students in grades 6-8 are considered the Junior Division.
    • All projects must be checked and approved by a sponsoring teacher or administrator from the school, or a member of the OCSEF Board of Directors.
    • If your school has a local science fair and/or a district fair, you must qualify through those fairs in order to enter OCSEF.
    • If your school has no school science fair or district science fair, up to 15 students from your school may participate in the OCSEF with the guidance of a teacher or authorized OCSEF board member.
    • Homeschoolers may be sponsored by a teacher, administrator, or OCSEF Board member.

  5. Only one project is allowed per student. Students may enter an individual project, or they may enter as part of a team project with 2 or 3 members total.
    • Team projects will be placed in the same categories as individual projects. Judges will have higher expectations for the originality, scientific value, and completeness of team projects done by 2 or 3 authors working together in comparison with the work done by one student.
    • All work on team projects must be acknowledged; all team members must be present at the judging interview to be considered for category awards.
    • Projects entered by an individual but discovered to have been done by a group will be disqualified.
    • Team projects with a partner from a region other than Orange County may choose to participate in the OCSEF or the other region's science fair (if their rules permit it), but not both.

  6. The maximum number of entries from a given school is 20 projects. District science fairs may enter up to 165 projects.
    • A school may exceed 20 projects if the projects are entered through its district fair.
    • A school may submit a written or online request to OCSEFfor more than 20 projects and a district may submit a written request for more than 165 projects for consideration by the Board by the deadline listed on the OCSEF key date (See the OCSEF website for Key Dates).



  8. All projects involving nonhuman vertebrate animals (including any invasive work with vertebrates beyond observations in natural settings) must conform to the regulations listed here and on the OCSEF Certification of Humane Treatment of Live Vertebrate Animals form.
    • Students must submit their completed Certification Form to the OCSEF Scientific Review Committee (SRC) BEFORE testing begins.
    • Plans must conform to  International Science and Engineering Fair Regulations for Experiments with Animals and the  International Science and Engineering Fair Regulations for Experiments with Animals.
    • The project must be planned and carried out under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, designated supervisor, or qualified scientist as required by the OCSEF SRC , as defined on the form.
    • Vertebrate animal studies without this certification will not be allowed in the Fair for exhibition or judging.
    • NEW! Because significant weight loss is one sign of stress, the maximum permissible weight loss or growth retardation (compared to controls) of any animal is 15%. Student researchers are expected to monitor regularly the health of their animals and record their weights.  


  10. All projects involving human subjects (including projects involving surveys and questionnaire) or data that came from human subjects with identifiable private information (e.g. names, addresses, birth date, phone number) must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification for Research of Human Subjects form.
    • Students must submit their completed Certification Form to the OCSEF Scientific Review Committee (SRC) BEFORE testing begins.
    • New! A School IRB may also review and approve Human Subjects research BEFORE testing begins and submit the OCSEF Human Subjects Research Certification to the OCSEF Scientific Review Committee 
    • Human studies without this certification form will not be allowed in the Fair for exhibition or judging.
    • New! Medical device inventions and prototype must be conducted in a Regulated Research Institution with the exception of those projects in which the student researcher is the only person  testing the invention and testing does not pose a safety hazard. 


  12. All projects that involve the use of tissues from humans or vertebrates (including bones, meat, fur, blood, eggs, blood agar, saliva etc.) must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification of Vertebrate Tissue Sample Source form.
    • Students must submit their completed Certification Form to the OCSEF Scientific Review Committee (SRC) BEFORE testing begins.
    • Students may not be involved in the direct acquisition of recombinant DNA, tissue, organs, or other body parts (including blood and meat) from humans or vertebrate animals; they must be acquired by qualified adults or from a commercial or medical source.
    • The Certification of Vertebrate Tissue Sample Source must be filled out and signed by person providing or buying the samples; it must be approved and signed by the sponsor/advisor before the project is begun.
    • Projects involving tissue studies without this certification will not be allowed in the fair for exhibition or judging.
    • NEW! Eggs and pasteurized milk from food stores have been added to a list of exempt tissues that do not require pre-approval.


  14. All projects that involve the use of hazards including Potentially Hazardous Biological Agents (microorganisms, recombinant DNA (rDNA) technologies, or human or animal tissues, blood, or body fluids) or Hazardous Substances or Devices (including physical and chemical hazards, anything so labeled or which, if not handled properly, can cause injury) must conform to the regulations listed here and on the Certification of Hazards Control form.
    • Students must submit their Certification Forms to the OCSEF Scientific Review Committee (SRC) BEFORE testing begins.
    • The Certification of Hazards Control must be filled out and signed by the sponsoring teacher/advisor before the project is begun.
    • Teachers and students must carefully plan and follow safe procedures: explicit details about how and where experiments will be done must be listed on the certification form.
    • Project work requiring certification includes: use of bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and molds; UV light exposure; use of controlled substances; use of hazardous chemicals; growing microorganisms in cultures in petri dishes; equipment/devices that are potentially dangerous or outside the student’s usual experience.
    • Culturing microorganisms in the home environment is prohibited. Such projects will not be allowed to compete in the OCSEF. 
    • Appropriate safety precautions, including PPE (eye goggles, aprons, gloves, etc.) must be worn when hazards exist.
    • New! Projects involving multidrug resistant organisms must be conducted at a Regulated Research Institution (See Section 10).
    • New! Projects involving Recombinant DNA (rDNA) technologies. Genome editing studies that include alteration of germline cells are BSL2 and must be conducted at regulated research institution (RRI) and approved by the institution’s Biosafety Committee (See Section 10).


  16. Students who perform project in in whole or part at an industrial, university, hospital, or other institution and not their school or home environment must follow these guidelines:
    • Certification of Regulated Research must be filled out and signed by the adult supervisor or principal investigator at that institution AFTER experimentation has been completed.
    • Approval letters from the appropriate institutional oversight committees (e.g. IRB, Environmental Health and Safety and/or IACUC) must be attached to the Certification of Regulated Research. Letters from the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory attesting to appropriate approvals will not be accepted.  
    • New! Studies that culture multidrug resistant organisms (e.g. MRSA, VISA/VRSA, VRE, CRE, ESBLs, fungi with known resistance to antifungal agents) require Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) approval, BSL-2 containment , and should be completed in a regulated research institution
    • New! Projects involving Recombinant DNA (rDNA) technologies. Genome editing studies that include alteration of germline cells must be completed in a BSL-2 laboratory and approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).

  17. ENTRY

  18. All students must register online at https://www.ocsef.orgprior to the registration deadline in order to enter the fair. (See  Key Datesfor due date.)
    • The student is responsible for selecting an appropriate category in which to enter the project.
    • The Fair Board will review and may change category assignments, based on the reading of the submitted abstracts, to insure that projects with similar topics are placed in the same category.

  19. Students must be present to speak with the Fair judges during Fair Week.
    • One hour judging interview times for the day of judging will be assigned (see OCSEF websitefor date of project judging).
    • Only students being interviewed will be allowed in the judging area with the projects on the day of judging.
    • Parents or teachers must remain in the waiting area.

  20. Students must take full responsibility for the safety of all parts of their exhibits.
    • Valuable material and equipment should be simulated or pictured but may be brought for demonstration during judging and then removed. (No gas or water outlets are provided; electrical outlets are within 6 feet if requested when registering the project).

  21. A project entered into the Fair must remain at the Fair from Registration / Set-Up until the designated pickup times. (see OCSEF websitefor the schedule of fair week events)
    • All projects must be set up and picked up only during designated hours.
    • Projects may not be picked up before the designated time.
    • Projects not picked up within the designated hours must be discarded, as no storage is available.


  23. The Orange County Science & Engineering Fair Board of Directors and the Orange County Fair & Exposition Center, or their representatives, reserve the right to not display any materials which might be offensive or pose a safety threat to fair participants or the general public, especially elementary school aged children who frequent the fair. Any exhibit or part of an exhibit that, in the judgment of the OCSEF Board, has these potential issues may be removed from display.

  24. All exhibits must adhere to all county, state and federal laws and regulations regarding wiring, toxicity, fire hazard, and general safety.

  25. Each exhibit should include a display board
    • Exhibit boards must be constructed of rigid material or be reinforced with framing to a weight of at least 2 pounds.
    • Foam-core and other light-weight exhibit boards must be framed or weighted (at least 2 lbs) at the base to prevent them falling/ blowing over and thus endangering nearby exhibits. If this occurs, the display board will be removed.

  26. Logbook, support documentation, and/or notebook must accompany and be securely attached to the exhibit with at least 3 feet of tether so they can be comfortably read by the judges.

  27. Exhibit restrictions
    • Maximum exhibit size is 32 inches wide by 15 inches deep by 6-1/2 feet tall.
    • The exhibit – including the display board – must be able to be placed on the designated table space, and all materials must fit within that space.
    • Oversized exhibits will not be eligible to be judged for awards, and may not be able to be displayed.
    • Other material and equipment may be brought during the student interview and then removed.
    • Keep in mind that the purpose of the display is to communicate the experimentation done, and not to provide a live demonstration of the experiment. Consider use of photographs and drawings.

  28. Exhibit Content Restrictions
    • No plants, food, chemicals, liquids (including water), hazardous materials or equipment, or unattached items may be on display.
    • Containers for high-pressure gases must be empty. No open flames are allowed.
    • Toxic, hazardous (or potentially hazardous), combustible, and cryogenic materials are prohibited.
    • Microorganisms in cultures should NOT be brought to the Fair .
    • The display of bacterial cultures and live or dead vertebrates, invertebrates, plants or microorganisms or their parts, is not permitted (e.g. teeth, hair, fur, feathers) Only illustrations or photographs of microorganisms and animals are permitted.
    • Exhibits may not display photographs of procedures detrimental to the health and well-being of vertebrate animals or humans. Performance of surgical or medical procedures may not be shown.

  29. Exhibits involving electricity must be safely displayed:
    • Equipment must be designed for battery (student provided) operation or 110 volts AC and are limited to maximum power dissipation of 500 watts. If using 110 VAC, you must provide a 10 amp fuse or circuit breaker at the input to your circuit.
    • Electrical cords must be UL-approved (including adequate wire size and insulation), use 3-prong connectors, and be a minimum of 6 feet long to reach the available electrical sources in the exhibit hall.
    • Connections must be soldered or secured by UL-approved fasteners. Open knife switches or doorbell type push button switches are not permitted for circuits using above 20 volts.
    • Lasers may be displayed but not operated at any time.
    • No equipment that creates or uses electrical energy may be operated during the OCSEF except during the student’s judging period.
    • Connections to electrical power sources must be disconnected when the student is not present to monitor the exhibit

Revised 2019