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  • Aditi Bhaskar

A Beginner's Science Fair Guide to ISEF

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Affiliated fair of ISEF is set up in Oregon

An affiliated fair in Oregon is set up for judging. Affiliated fairs can have unique categories. (Credit to Aditi B)



Students are innovating and inventing across the world for various reasons. A passion for bioengineering, experimentation with machine learning algorithms during free time in easy classes, or even as an extracurricular for their college applications, because their parents “said so”.


Getting connected to an affiliated fair - that is, a fair affiliated with the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) - is key to gaining a larger stage, cash prizes to support your research, and a network of like-minded scientists. Finding a local affiliated fair is easier within the USA, and trickier for internationals (non-USA).


You can use this (https://findafair.societyforscience.org) to search for a local affiliated fair, get in contact with them and apply.


Schedules -


When should you start looking for your affiliated fair?


The ISEF season* looks approximately like this:


July-October: Connect with your local fair and fill out pre-experimental forms (https://www.societyforscience.org/isef/forms/) and get approved by the IRB.


Write your rationale and research/engineering plan; start your experimentation.


October-January: During these months, you will carry out the bulk of your experimentation and data collection. Final deadlines for applying to your regional fair are also due. Don’t miss the date! Some fairs require a complete research paper while others only require your name and personal details for application.


Know the requirements ahead of time and plan for it.


January-March: Local/Regional fairs, which send students to State fairs and directly to ISEF.


March-April: State fairs, which send additional students to ISEF.


May: ISEF, hosted by a city in the USA (eg. 2022 Atlanta, 2023 Dallas, 2024 Los Angeles).


Events over ISEF week include the opening ceremonies, excursions, mixer night, judging day, special awards ceremony, and grand awards ceremony.


*Note that an international student’s schedule may be different. Start looking for your affiliated fair in May - one calendar year before the next ISEF - and take note of your deadlines.


Topics -

Choosing your topic can be tricky, but go with something you will have a passion to work on over hundreds of hours.


Remember to choose an impactful problem in our world, and know you can solve it from any angle: robotics, chemistry, environmental engineering, and more! (Here is an interesting article which dissecting science fair projects - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/behind-innovation-insights-from-international-science-william-kaiser/).


Know your fair -

Some local fair directors are involved in your projects, and others are non-involved teachers filling the role for paperwork reasons. Some states are heavier with students who do research at local institutions and others have more casual at-home projects. In any case, learn about your local fair by connecting to other students who have gone through, or are going through, the process. Published resources online seldom cover that information at a local level. If you are struggling to find local students, or simply wish to know more, you can join the unofficial ISEF discord server (https://discord.gg/xvvTYpWAad).



Plan ahead -

Finish each step as early as possible. It takes time to fill out forms, and it takes time to create graphics for your final poster. These steps are often forgotten and it leads to rushed and half-completed presentations of your hard work. Ensure you have a current timeline for your local fair and frame your goals on it.



Using these tips provided and giving yourself time to plan everything out will ensure your success!

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