Types of Science Fair Projects & Minimum Requirements

ISEF and has adapted the forms that appear on the Intel ISEF Rules SVSEF follows web site.  SVSEF web pages provide information about requirements and procedures that are specific to our South Valley SEF.

Project Types

Product testing projects test and compare similar items using measurable endpoints. SVSEF allows ONLY allows science, engineering, math, and computer projects:


  • Science Projects

    • Science projects investigate the effects of changes or answers the question "Why?"

  • Engineering/Math/Computer Projects

    • Engineering/math/computer projects solve a need or problem and include measurements of success

SVSEF does NOT accept: 

  • Human Participants Projects (Behavioral Science)

    • Human participant projects are projects where humans are being studied, such as

  psychology, sociology, and other behavioral sciences. 

  • Product Testing Projects

    • Product testing projects test and compare similar items using measurable endpoints.

  • Demonstration Projects

    • Demonstration projects show how something works. There is no design goal or hypothesis.


Minimum Requirements

Science Projects



  1. Subject defines a testable question that begins “Why… or What is effect of a change in X on Y? “(For example, what is the effect of a change in the amount of sunlight on the growth of tomato plants?)

  2. Bibliography includes references from your literature research.

  3. Hypothesis based on your library research and knowledge. It is your best estimate of what will happen and it’s not only OK but quite common if your results turn out differently.

  4. Experimental design:

       (A) Define a control (a “standard” group) to which all test groups will be compared.

       (B) Define test groups where only one variable differs from the “control” group.

       (C) Define measurable endpoint(s).

  • Each test group should contain a minimum of 3 objects being tested (seed, plant, etc.).

  • Plan to change only one variable in each test cycle. However, change the variable in several ways (several concentrations of a chemical, several temperatures, or several time points etc.).

  • Report measurements in metric units (SI) when possible.

  • Repeat the test three times or more to see if your results are reproducible.

Need an example?

During her Quick 5 interview​, our fair manager briefly referred to a fun experiment that could be done with dominos based on a recent article she read. The author of the article, "How fast a row of dominos topples depends on friction," (www.sciencenews.org/article/physics-falling-dominos-friction) talked about how, using computer simulations of rows of dominos being pushed over, closely spaced dominos on slicker surfaces fell faster. This could be repeated as a student physics project, using a variety of surfaces with different slip-stick properties. (If you were to do this project, look up the slip-stick properties of various materials as part of picking what you'll set the dominos up on (i.e., your surface selection could include a tile counter, newspaper , etc.) and reference this and the Science News article in your bibliography. If the tile and newspaper are the surfaces you pick, then your hypothesis could be "the dominos on the tile will fall faster than those on the newspaper."The independent variable (what you change) is the surface; the dependent variable is fall time. Do at least three repetitions with each surface - including your control - with the same number of dominos set up in the same pattern and distances from each other. Want to add more or less dominos or change the pattern? That's adding more variables, so repeat each new condition at least 3 times, making only one change at a time. And for all, make sure you time how fast the dominos fell. Think about how you can do that repeatably - is the "time" the first domino falling or the last? Maybe take a video on your phone to help figure this out. There are lots of ways to approach this simple, fun experiment that would meet all the Science project requirements. And be sure to enter all your data in your bound science notebook.

Engineering, Math, and Computer Science Projects

  1. Clearly define the problem or need the engineering math, or computer project will solve.

  2. Include the bibliography from your literature research.

  3. List design criteria and design constraints for your investigation

    • Physical and functional characteristics of the design (shape, weight, etc.).

    • Design constraints/limitations (cost, time, available materials, etc.).

  4. Clearly state success criteria. What will you measure to see if your design worked?

  5. Report measurements in metric (SI) units where possible.

Need an example?

Instead of doing a science experiment from what you've learned from the Science News article about falling dominos discussed in the above science project example, what if you wanted to do an engineering investigation? Suppose you want to build a machine that could push down a line of dominos. Your goal could be "I will make a 6cm high robot whose arm will move at a rate of 6cm per minute with a force of 7kN per meter to knock down a row of 10 dominos." (Engineering, math, and computer science investigations have goals, not the hypotheses science experiments do.) Include what you're making your robot out of (available materials), how long do you think it would take, and how much would it cost . These are your design constraints/limitations. What you will be measuring to see if your design worked? That would be your success criteria -if the row of dominos falls. If they all fall, can you reduce the arm rate of movement or force and still have all the dominos fall down? What if you meet your criteria but the row doesn't fall? You could try increasing either the rate or force characteristic, and try again. In either case, make your changes one at a time, and repeat your test at least 3 times. Your bibliography would include references to the before mentioned Science News article and maybe something about small, cheap robotic design. And don't forget to enter everything you've done in your bound engineering notebook.