Project Categories

Choosing a Project Category

When registering your project to the OCSEF, you will be required to choose a category for your science fair project. The most important rule to follow is to choose the category that reflects the subject you studied, not the methods you used. The Fair Board will review and may change category assignments, based on the reading of the submitted abstracts, to insure that projects with similar subjects are placed in the same category. Keeping projects aligned within categories helps to ensure projects are reviewed by judges with expertise in the category.

Project Categories


Design, fabrication, and operation of structures and mechanical systems including the use of:

  • Computers in design.
  • Characteristics of structures and materials including strength, flexibility, dynamic response.
  • Active and passive control of structures and systems.
  • Fatigue and fracture evaluations, elastic/plastic materials characteristics.

Examples: Correlation of Insulation and Resultant Sound Transmission; Shock Attenuation in Baseball Helmets; Anti lock vs. Lock Brakes; Strengthening Concrete with Rice Ash Hull.
Related Categories : Consumer testing of products should be in Product Testing. Soil stability studies and erosion studies should be in Earth Sciences. Projects which focus on computer hardware design and/or fabrication (as opposed to using computers as tools) should be in Electricity and Electronics.


  • Aerodynamics and propulsion of air, land, sea, and space vehicles.
  • Aerodynamics and hydrodynamics of structures and natural objects.

Examples: Evaluation of Tail Rotor Designs; Effect of Dimples on Golf Ball Flight; Home-made Heat Pump; Airfoil Stall Characteristics.
Related Categories: Studies of fundamental thermodynamic properties (e.g., specific heat) should be in Physics/Astronomy.  Studies of acoustics should be in Physics/Astronomy.


  • Electrical and electronic engineering.
  • Electrical circuits, Electro-optics, Electromagnetics applications.
  • Computer design and computer hardware applications.
  • Power engineering, applied physics.

Examples: Satellite Reception Without a Dish; Transmitting Power With Tesla Coils; Transmission of Information by Laser.
Related Categories: Projects which use electronic devices as tools in the study of phenomena belong in the appropriate categories (e.g., the use of an electronic device to study hearing in birds belongs in Zoology).


  • Experimental or theoretical studies of the physical properties of matter in all forms.
  • Optical and radio astronomy, Astrophysics.
  • Acoustics.
  • Orbital dynamics, astronomical surveys.
  • Computer simulation of physical systems.

Examples: Gravity Current Velocities; Determining the Age of a Galactic Star Cluster; Do High Temperature Superconductors have a First Order Transition?
Related Categories: Studies of the physical composition of other planets (as opposed to their orbits) should be in Earth Science.


  • Pure and applied mathematics, calculus, geometry, topology, algebra, number theory.
  • Algorithm analysis and optimization.
  • Artificial intelligence.
  • Computability, computer graphics, modeling and simulation.
  • Programming environments and languages.

Examples: Geometric Tiling; Coupled Chaotic Systems and Stability; Simulating Evolution; Knot Mathematics.
Related Categories: Projects using mathematics as a tool to understand a different subject should be in that subject. Computer hardware projects should be in Electricity and Electronics.


  • Studies in which chemical properties of nonbiological organic and inorganic materials (excluding biochemistry) are observed.
  • Physical properties, including phase changes, crystal structures and formation, intermolecular and intramolecular forces.
  • Fuels and combustion, Soil Chemistry, Chemical analysis, Chemical engineering.
  • Observation of the chemical properties of organic and inorganic materials.
  • Characterization of chemical products found in everyday life.

Examples: The Determination of Molecular Mass Using the Vapor Density Method; Electroforming on Non-Conductive Surfaces; Determination of Ascorbic Acid Concentration in Orange Juice Using a Redox Reaction.
Related Categories: Chemical studies of metabolic processes or processes mediated by biochemical intermediates (e.g., enzymes) should be in Biochemistry.


  • Geology, geophysics, soil stability. Gravity Current Velocities; Beach Sand Fluctuations and Cliff Erosion; Dependence of Liquefaction upon Soil Composition; Influence of Site Effects on Peak Ground Acceleration in the Northridge and Whittier Narrows Earthquakes; Solar Activity and Refraction Properties of the Ionosphere.
  • Physical oceanography, Seismology, Fossil fuels, Mineology.
  • Atmospheric physics, meteorology.
  • Speleology, Topography.
  • Studies of environmental factors not related to living things, or effects of human activity on naturally occurring physical environment.

Examples: Dependence of Liquefaction on Soil Composition; Temperature Variations in Huntington Beach; Beach Sand Fluctuations and Cliff Erosion.
Related Categories: Studies of the effects on the physical environment by human activity (e.g., pollution) should be in Environmental Sciences.


  • Studies of the interdependence between living systems and the environment.
  • Projects surveying, measuring, or studying the impact of natural and man-made changes on the environment.
  • Pollution sources and their control.
  • Waste disposal, recycling, reclamation and restoration.
  • Primary Water Treatment, Oil Control, Recycling. Effects of Petroleum Contaminated Water on Aquatic Plants.
  • Effects of environmental altering on the plants and animals forming an ecosystem, environmental impact forecasting and computer modeling.
  • Projects which apply technologies such as recycling, reclamation, restoration, composting, and bioremediation which could benefit the environment and/or the effects of pollution on the environment.

Examples: The Effects of Fires on Flora and Fauna; How Does Water Quality Affect the Abundance and Diversity of Micro-invertebrates; Bacteria Pollution in Our Beaches; An Analysis of Dissolved Oxygen; Effect of Acid Rain on a Pond; Phytoplankton Growth Stimulation-Combatting the Greenhouse Effect; Microbial Bioremediation Effect on Marine Ecosystems; Oil Control; Newspapers as Mulch; Water Hyacinth- Primary Water Treatment.
Related Categories: Effects of specific chemicals on a particular plant or animal belong in Pharmacology. Studies of the impact of specific human activities on the physical environment (e.g., erosion owing to human dams as opposed to that resulting from the natural evolution of streams) should be in Earth Science.


  • Studies of animals in their natural habitat or in a reproduction of a habitat. This includes animal behavioral studies not related to humans, animal biorhythms, veterinary medicine, and genetics.

Examples: Effect of Gravity on Living Organisms; Bird Responses to Boar Rootings; Ultraviolet Light and Sea Urchin Development; Invertebrates in Kelp Holdfast.
Related Categories: Studies of chemical stress on animals are in Pharmacology. Studies of learning processes and of animal behavior in lab settings are in Behavioral Sciences.


  • Genetics, growth, and pathology of plants involving processes, structure, and responses.

Examples: Ultraviolet Light-Effects on Photosynthesis; Effects of Various Colors of Light on Algae Growth Rate; Alleviating the Greenhouse Effect With Plants that Rapidly Absorb CO2; Transpiration of Plants Under Different Light Sources.
Related Categories: Studies of the effect of non-fertilizer and non-insecticide chemicals are in Pharmacology. Studies of plants in an ecosystem are in Environmental Sciences/Ecology. Development or use of plant products are in Botany Applications.


  • Agriculture, horticulture, and forestry involving the development and evaluation of practical and commercial uses of plants, including algae and fungi and plant products.

Examples: Hydroponic vs. Soil Grown Plants; Effects of Organic, Chemical, Liquid and Granular Fertilizers on Plant Growth; Effect of Insecticides on Plant Growth.
Related Categories: Studies involving plant growth, structures, and responses of a non-commercial or practical nature are in Botany.


  • Chemical composition and reactions in living systems studied at the molecular level.
  • Studies of biological molecules, e.g. DNA, RNA, proteins, fats, vitamins, nutrients.
  • A study in this category may use the whole organism, but must be confined to specific reactions.
  • Molecular biology, molecular genetics, enzymes, protein chemistry, chemistry of food composition.

Examples: Effect of Bile on Fat; CO2 Production with Yeast and Different Sugar Media; pH Effects of PEPc Enzyme Activation; Catalyzed Reactions of Enzymes.
Related Categories: Studies of material extracted from plants or animals belong in Chemistry unless the reactions being studied naturally occur in vivo.


  • Studies of the characterization, genetics, growth, reproduction, and response to chemical and physical stress of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and yeasts.

Examples: Can Yeast Reproduce on a Sugar Substitute?; Environmental Effects on Bacteria Growth; The Microbes of Spices; Studies of Light Producing Bacteria; What Sugars do Yeast Use?.
Related Categories: Projects which use bacteria as a tool to study another subject belong in that subject (e.g., using bacteria to study air pollution belong in Environmental Sciences/Ecology).


  • Studies of the effects of drugs or chemicals on living organisms, especially but not only humans.
  • Potentially harmful factors (such as temperature, carbon dioxide, radiation) at the cellular or higher levels on plants and animals.
  • Studies may be at the cellular, organ, or organism level.

Examples: Antidepressants and Pain Relief; Effect of Caffeine on Daphnia; Effect of Acid on Fertilization of Fish; Antibiotic Sensitivity of Common Bacteria.
Related Categories: Studies of single celled organisms are in Microbiology. Effects of fertilizers on plants are in Botany Applications.


  • Studies in medicine, public health, and pathology, including nutrition, dentistry, allergies, speech and hearing, and biophysics.
  • Studies of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Includes all antimicrobial studies except testing of commercial antimicrobials.

Examples: Electronic Ears; A Diagnostic Technique for Visual Disorders; Fiber Optic Heart/ Respiration Waveform Monitor; Effect of Age on Aerobic Abilities; Peripheral Vision; Strength and Gender.
Related Categories: Studies of physiological reactions to chemicals are in Pharmacology. Studies of the physiology of animals other than humans are in Zoology.


  • Psychology, psychiatry, educational testing.
  • Studies of human psychology, behavior, development, linguistics, and the effects of chemical or physical stress on these processes.
  • Experimental or observational studies of attitudes, behaviors, or values of a society or groups within a society, and of the influences of society on group behavior. Includes gender and diversity studies, anthropology, archaeology, and sociology. Studies may focus on either normal or abnormal behavior. .
  • Learning, perception, behavior and conditioned responses in humans.
  • Sociology and Anthropology, including behavior, learning, and conditioned responses involving group interactions and group differences.

Examples: Are Left Handed People More Creative Than Right Handed People? Effect of Caffeine on Memory; Syntactic Convergence in Bilingual People; The Effectiveness of Flash Cards vs. Computer Games.
Related Categories: Studies of group interactions and differences, attitude surveys, and questionnaires belong in Cognitive Science. Animal behavior studies are in Zoology.


  • Studies of learning, memory, and cognition in humans, using human or animal models for human processes. Studies of the effects of chemical or physical stress on cognition. Includes projects on subliminal perception, optical illusions, recall and observations (e.g. reliability of eyewitnesses), and the interaction of different senses.
  • Opinion, values, and attitude surveys and questionnaires.

Examples: Subliminal Advertising-The Battle For Your Mind; Do You Know Your Rights? Age and Gender Differences in Food Preferences.
Related Categories: Studies of the learning and behavior of groups are in Behavioral Sciences. Surveys and questionnaires as part of a study outside the social and behavioral sciences are in the category related to that topic.


  • Comparison and testing of commercial off-the-shelf products for quality and/or effectiveness for intended use in real-world consumer-oriented applications. This category is reserved for experimental methods involving biological sciences and processes.

Examples: Preventing Pumpkin Decomposition; Antibacterial Soap vs. Antibacterial Gel: Cause for Concern? Tylenol Brand vs. Store Brand Acetaminophen; Does Orange Oil Really Work?


  • Comparison and testing of commercial off-the-shelf products (except antimicrobials) for quality and/or effectiveness for intended use in real-world consumer-oriented applications.
  • This category is reserved for experimental methods involving non-biological, physical sciences and processes.

Examples: Water Absorption in Eight Selected Hardwoods With and Without Sealants; Best Plywood for Homemade Skateboards; Cotton, Linen, Wool: Which One Lasts Longer?; Fire Resistance of Roofing Materials; Which Laundry Detergent Works the Best? Antilock vs. Lock Brakes; Shock Attenuation in Baseball Helmets; Effective Sound Barrier Materials.
Related Categories: Studies of basic material characteristics and physical properties not related to a consumer product application belong in Applied Mechanics /Structures & Mechanisms/ Manufacturing.


  • Studies of energy production, energy conversion/utilization such as solar cells. Projects investigating or attempting to improve the efficiency of transforming one form of energy to another.

Examples: Analysis of Nanocrystal Dye-sensitized Solar Cells; Maximizing the Power Output of a Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Module through the Use of Solar Concentrators.

Updated for 2015 OCSEF