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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 6 – 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. 


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.