Judging

Thank you for your interest in becoming a judge for the OCSEF.

The Orange County Science & Engineering Fair (OCSEF) is an annual event organized to encourage the youth of our county in grades 6-12 to experience STEM by conducting a project and to consider a career in science, math, computer science, or engineering. Judges play a critical role in the student’s science fair experience. Your judging can affect students profoundly, sometimes altering their career choices and almost always influencing their attitudes toward science and technology.

The 2023 OCSEF Board Award Judging Program will be conducted virtually on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.  A program with a separate judging panel will select students to represent OCSEF at the International Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday, March 18, 2023.

Judges evaluate projects and interview students to determine which projects merit receiving awards in their category.   Each year several hundred students present projects at the OCSEF and judging is the culmination of their hard work. As a judge, you become an important part of their learning, and your encouragement has an impact on their view of science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM).

The student interviews are the highlight of the OCSEF.   It is an opportunity for students to showcase their work to the judges and for the judges to create a positive and welcoming experience for the students.   Our goal is to make the OCSEF a memorable experience for the 6th – 12th grade students who participate and, hopefully, provide a spark to pursue more education and careers in one of the STEM fields.

OCSEF Judging Programs

Board Awards

All student projects entered in the OCSEF are evaluated for OCSEF Board Awards in one of twenty project categories in either the Junior Division (Grades 6-8) or Senior Division (Grades 9-12).  

Requirements: Scientists, engineers, educators, whether currently working or retired, who are interested in encouraging the young people of Orange County to consider a career in science or engineering. Minimum requirements are a Bachelor’s degree in a STEM field or five years working experience in a STEM field.

ISEF Selection

Students with the top projects in the Senior Division are invited for interviews to determine the OCSEF representatives to the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) that will be held on March 19.   ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. More than 1,800 students in grades 9 – 12 from nearly every state in the U.S. and more than 80 countries, regions and territories showcase their talent on an international stage, are judged by doctoral-level scientists and compete for nearly $5 million in prizes and scholarships.  Click here for more information on ISEF 

Requirements:  Students selected for ISEF typically conduct original research projects at a high level, often in conjunction with university research facilities. ISEF Selection Judges should be current in their area of expertise, have a Ph.D. in their field or be in a Ph.D. degree research program in science, math, computer science, or engineering.  

Judging Application

To become an OCSEF Board Award or ISEF Selection judge, please click on the link below and complete the application to be added to our database.

Click here to sign up and fill in the application

General Instructions

Complete Section 1 (Contact information), Section 2 (Availability), and Section 3 (Judging preferences) of the application if you are a recent, returning OCSEF Judge.  Update changes in your information in Section 4.  Review and accept the “Conflict of Interest” policy statement. Submit the Application at the end of Section 4.

Complete the entire application if you are a first-time OCSEF Judge or if you have not judged in the last three years.

The OCSEF is divided into two Divisions:  Senior Division (Grades 9-12) and Junior Division (Grades 6-8).   Each Division contains 20 Categories.  Select your Category preference and two alternate choices based on your interest and experience.

Board Award Judging Program Organization

Judges work in a team with others.  First-time Judges will team with more experienced Judges.  Each Judge individually evaluates projects in their category and participates as part of a team in student interviews.   Judges convene as a team to deliberate and decide which projects merit receiving awards in their category.

Each team is led by a Judging Captain who coordinates the activities of the Judges assigned to their category.  This includes assigning judges to teams, reviewing the judging objectives and policies for evaluating projects, leading the deliberations on awards at the end of the day and reporting the awards results to the Director of Judging.

Judging the Virtual Fair – Timeline and Responsibilities

The 2023 OCSEF will be conducted virtually.   Students will upload a slide deck describing the key elements of their projects to the OCSEF Survey Monkey platform.  Judges will review no more than 12 projects in their category on line, at their convenience, before the student interviews.   The judging team will conduct student interviews.

Timeline

Thurs. March 2, 2023, 6 pm. – Open portal for Judges to review projects in their category.

Mon. March 6, 2023, 6 pm – Close portal.  

Wed. March 8, 2023, 2 pm to 6 pm: Project Judging for Board Awards (Zoom),   Student Interviews –2 pm to 5 pm.   Awards Deliberations – 5 pm to 6 pm. 

Sun. March TBD, 2023: Open House and Awards Assembly sponsored by Chapman University.  Judges welcome to participate.

March 18, 2023, time TBD : Project Judging for ISEF Competition

The OCSEF Board of Directors thank you for your interest and your participation.

Past OCSEF judges say

“Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in this event as a judge. I had a great time reading the abstracts and was thrilled to see the projects as well as speak to the students. I would definitely be interested in joining you next year so do keep me in mind.”

“I thank you for a wonderful day! I had a great time meeting and working with all of my fellow judges.”

“I am greatly encouraged to see such enthusiasm for science and engineering with these youngsters. They are our future, the best and the brightest. I will indeed be a part of the next cycle as a judge.”

“I am greatly encouraged to see such enthusiasm for science and engineering with these youngsters. They are our future, the best and the brightest. I will indeed be a part of the next cycle as a judge.”


It may be selfish, but we tend to feel great when we help others. Perhaps it’s the joy we see on their faces when we’ve accomplished a huge task for them, or the fact that we also gain a lot out of these experiences in terms of friends, contacts, and experience. Either way, volunteering is a rewarding experience which benefits ourselves and organizations alike.

– John Grant