In the age of talent-based reality shows such as American Idol, judges have become adversaries and students will expect at least one “mean” judge (aka Simon Cowell) in the group. Unlike Hollywood judges, however, science fair judges are not paid and science fair judging is not an accolade on our CV (i.e. the science equivalent of a resume). In other words, those of us that judge science fairs, choose to do so because we enjoy interacting with students and facilitating their development into future scientists.
The idea of the judges being “out to get” students creates sleepless nights across the country! Instead, students should be excited that they finally have the opportunity to show off their hard work and creativity. Encourage your child to see the judge as their ally, the one that will advocate for their success.
Here are 4 tips for succeeding during the judging portion:
1. Greet the judge – stand up, look at them, shake their hand, and say “It is nice to meet you, my name is…”
2. Be able to summarize the project in 2 minutes, but also have a longer, more detailed presentation ready in case the judge doesn’t have any immediate questions or time constraints.
3. Highlight the creative or unexpected aspects of the project. If you encountered any problems along the way, describe that process – judges love the problem solving aspects because it shows you did some thinking, as opposed to just following directions from a project you found on the web.
4. Balance enthusiasm and knowledge.
Coaches: encourage your child not to read too much into body language. Scientists as a group generally lack social skills. Sometimes a judge decides the project is very good, but they need to move on to evaluate all the projects they have been assigned. In this case they may abruptly end the interview and go to the next project. Other times, the judge hsd decided the project is not in the top tier, comments the student did an excellent job presenting it (because they are just trying to be nice), and then moves on.