Secondary Science Fair Experiment Guidelines

  • All secondary projects must follow guidelines of the Science Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH) and International Science and Engineering Fair to be eligible for District Science Fair judging. 
  • All grade 7 – 12 projects must be registered through Scienteer, which is the online registration program. 
  • The identical repetition of a previous year's project is not permitted. 

 Experimenting with Vertebrates

There is an increasing concern over the use of vertebrates in student experimentation.  Behavioral experiments are preferable over physiological experiments.  The guidelines for working with vertebrates are included on the SEFH web page.  They include:

  • Animals may not be exposed to any conditions that may be considered harmful, including dissection or surgical procedures.
  • Animals may not be sacrificed for the purpose of experimentation.
  • Animals must be provided quality care after the experiment is concluded.

Experimenting with Human Subjects 

All rules concerning the use of vertebrates must be followed in working with human subjects.  Teachers, IRB, and SRC must review all surveys students may use prior to approval.  Extremely personal data and controversial topics (sex, diseases, etc.) should be avoided.  No individual can be identified.

Working with Bacteria/Fungi and Other Microorganisms

Any experiment involving the culture or growth of microorganisms or fungi (mold) must be carried out under adult supervision and cannot be done at home.  All contaminated substances should be disposed of in a sanitary method at the conclusion of the experiment.   SRC approval is required.

 Working with Hazardous Substances

All chemical substances should be used under adult supervision.  Hazardous substances should not be used.  Controlled substances including prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco may not be used without SRC approval and in accordance with state and federal penal codes.  Safety measures must be thoroughly addressed in the procedures.

 All students should review the SEFH web site or the International Science Engineering Fair web site for exact rules concerning both experimentation and project display. 

Science Fair Display Guidelines

Every effort will be made to provide general protection; however, all equipment and materials exhibited during the science fair are entered at the risk of the exhibitor. Neither the Science Fair Director nor the sponsors assume any responsibility for loss or damage to such equipment and materials.

Project Dimensions

All exhibits must have a backdrop. Maximum height is 274 cm (108 in) including table (table height is 76cm [30 in]). The width is not to exceed 122 cm (48 in) from side to side. Depth is not to exceed 76 cm (30 in) from front and back. Projects must stand alone. It is not necessary for the display to contain all of the experimental apparatus and materials. In general, these items make the display more likely to be damaged or cause damage to other projects. The following guidelines should be observed.

General Rules

  1. All exhibits must have a small label with the student's name, grade, school and teacher on the back bottom edge of the project. The label should not be visible from the front of the project. Logbook covers and inside front pages should display the project title. Student name, grade, school and teacher should be on the last page of the logbook; that last page can be folded in half to cover that information during judging.
  2. All projects must follow rules and guidelines of Science Engineering Fair of Houston, found on the website at
  3. The display of anything that could be hazardous to the public or facility is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
    a) Living organisms, including plants and animals
    b) No animal parts may be displayed with the exception of hair, teeth, nails, dried animal bones, histological dry mount sections and completely sealed wet mount tissue slides
    c) No chemical substances may be displayed.
    d) No liquids, including water, may be displayed, except as allowed in SEFH rules (see website).
    e) Any containers of commercial products displayed should be empty. This includes food products, cleaning products, etc.
    f) No open flames permitted.
    g) No cultures of mold or bacteria may be exhibited.
    h) No food may be displayed.
  4. 4. Photographs have specific rules and restrictions. The SEFH web site should be checked for specific restrictions. Photographs showing the student doing the research ARE allowable. Credits for photographs should be included.


Each year, many parents and guardians ask the question, "How much assistance should we give the student on his/her project?"  There is no simple answer to this question.  When students pursue graduate degrees in science and engineering, most of their major professors provide them with the general topic for their research.  The professor also serves as a close mentor while they perform the research and formulate their conclusions.  In addition, very few major scientific accomplishments are truly the work of just one individual.  Fair officials expect that the work presented in a project is based on the efforts of the student.  This is a major reason why our district judges spend so much time questioning the students about their project.  We appreciate and encourage the fact that many projects end up involving the entire family, but the student should be the major participant in all phases of the project he/she is capable of doing.