California State Science Fair
Changes from 2003 - 2004


The California State Science Fair strives continually to improve the quality of the event for its participants throughout the State of California. As part of these ongoing efforts the changes listed below will be implemented. Some of these changes were discussed at the last County Coordinators' Conference which was held during the 2003 California State Science Fair.

 * Qualifying Requires Only Selection by Affiliate
 * Team Projects: Maximum Reduced to Three Students
 * Consequences of the State Budget Crisis
 * No USC Housing
 * Separate Application Deadlines: Submission and Application Fee
Annual Update
 * Category Definitions Revised
 * Revised Project Allocations for 2004
More to come...

Qualifying Requires Only Selection by Affiliate

Affiliated fairs need not be concerned with presenting particular awards to projects when qualifying them to CSSF. For many years the California State Science Fair permitted each affiliate to determine the number of projects it wished to qualify, limited only by the requirement that the affiliate had presented a category award of either first place, second place, or third place. Honorable mention category awards were not permitted to qualify. However, since 1998 CSSF has established allocations for each affiliate, limiting the total number of projects which each may qualify. (See the last article below.) In some fairs, so many first place awards are presented that only a fraction of them may be qualified. In others, the top three place awards are awarded rather more sparingly, and in consequence some high quality projects would receive honorable mentions and thus not qualify to CSSF.

This rule has now been amended. While CSSF still does require that each qualifying project must have won a category award (note: not a special award given by an external organization), the level of this category award is irrelevant to CSSF. Thus, a project winning any category award (e.g. first, second, third, honorable mention, or any other title) is acceptable given only that the affiliated fair specifically selects the project as one of its representatives to CSSF.

Team Projects: Maximum Reduced to Three Students

Four-person teams will no longer be accepted. The California State Science Fair has permitted teams of students to cooperate on a single project since 1994. During this entire time the number of cooperating students has been limited to no more than four. This limitation was reduced to three beginning in 2003, though in deference to affiliates which still allowed four-member teams, enforcement of this reduction was delayed until this year.

This change should have little practical impact. The number of four-person projects has never exceeded 1% of the total number of projects. In each of the last two years there was only one such project.

Consequences of the State Budget Crisis

Several Annual Features of the California State Science Fair Have Been Omitted from the 2004 Fair. While the budget for the California State Science Fair is not directly supported by the State of California, CSSF is dependent upon the facilities and the staff of the California Science Center, a State institution. In consequence of the impact of the State budget crisis on the Science Center, support for the California State Science Fair has been reduced with the following consequences this year.

The Science Fair Tent, a staple of the last several years, in which all of the major assemblies of participants occurred, will not be constructed this year. This means that registration for participants will be moved to the South Entrance to the California Science Center, in which building all projects will continue to be displayed as in recent years. Two of the three public ceremonies, the Keynote Address and the Student Orientation will be canceled. The third, and most important, public ceremony, the Awards Ceremony will take place in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, which is sited a few hundred yards south of the Science Center, still within the boundary of Exposition Park.

Publications of the Fair have also been impacted. Since the 1980s we have distributed each year the poster announcing the California State Science Fair to thousands of middle and high schools throughout the State. This year the poster was not printed. The Student Application Packet was not printed this year, though the content of the Packet is available for download from this web site. Other publications which are similarly not printed but available for download are the Judging Handbook and the Volunteer Handbook.

No USC Housing

Dormitory Rooms at USC Will No Longer Be Reserved by the Fair. For many years the Fair coordinated local housing in USC dormitories for participants and their families who preferred not to search out local hotels. Last year, 2003, owing to the early date for CSSF and a late date for USC's Commencement it was not possible for USC to provide this housing option. Surveys of participants following the 2003 Fair showed no significant demand for this service. Given the lack of support and the administrative burden imposed by the provision of this service, the Fair has decided not to reinstate the organization of USC dormitory reservations for participants and their families.

We recognize that this decision is counter to our previously announced intent to continue the USC dormitory option. Participants, families, and affiliated fair organizers with objections to this change are encouraged to send us their comments on this housing issue. We intend to provide a superior experience to all participants at CSSF and would consider returning to the old policy given sufficient cause.

Help in finding housing will be provided in the form of information on our Web site, but the Fair itself is unable to accept any reservation requests.

Separate Deadlines: Submission and Application Fee

Separate deadlines are established for application submission, and for payment of the Application Fee. Through 2002 a single deadline was established by which time applications had to have been received by the Fair. Providing a web application meant that the Application Fee was necessarily received afterwards. However, not defining a deadline for receipt of the Application Fee caused confusion both by students who worried that the fee had to be received by the Submission Deadline, and by those who delayed payment significantly.

Separate deadlines are now defined: a Submission Deadline, by which time the Web application must be completed, and an Application Fee Deadline, by which time the Application Fee must be received by the Fair. While applications are considered "received" when they are submitted, they are not considered "complete" until the Application Fee has been received. Each student's deadlines are determined by the affiliated fair through which he/she has qualified to CSSF. Failure to submit and complete an application by the relevant deadlines may result in the application not being accepted in favor of earlier applications from students in the same affiliated fair. These separate deadlines were established in 2003, and are now a permanent feature of the Fair.

Special Note for Alternates: All students from an affiliated fair, whether qualified by that affiliate or named as an alternate, must meet the same Submission and Application Fee deadlines. If an application is not accepted because the allocation from the affiliate has been filled, the corresponding Application Fee will be refunded.

Return of Duplicate Application Fees: CSSF recognizes that the Application Fees of some students will be paid by others, such as a school district. Nevertheless, the Application Fee deadline still applies. Since a late payment would jeopardize the application, it is recommended that students in this situation submit the Application Fee immediately upon submission of the Application. If another payment is subsequently received and identified as applying to the student, the student's Application Fee will be refunded.

Category Definitions Revised

The Category definitions for the 2004 Fair have been revised from 2003. These revisions do not affect the number of categories available in either age division, nor do they change the title of any category. Instead, the revisions are clarifications of previous intent or change of subject content to better balance the distribution of projects submitted to the Fair.

As for the future several categories are actively being studied for possible revision, division, and elimination for the 2005 Fair. This will be discussed at the 2004 Conference. For reference, here are the 2004 Category Definitions.

Revised Project Allocations for 2004

The allocations to affiliated fairs of the number of projects which may be sent to CSSF have been revised from 2002 levels. Beginning in 1998, the number of projects which each affiliated fair is allowed to qualify to CSSF has been defined as an explicit limit by CSSF, rather than loose limits determined by each fair independently. Generally speaking, this new allocation process has been a success. Based upon discussions with our affiliates, most notably all of those participating in recent County Coordinators Conferences, these allocations have been revised for 2004. The allocation criteria are unchanged from the previous year. Here are these allocations, along with their determining factors.

See also: Changes in recent years: 2003 , 2002 , 2001 , 2000 , 1999 , 1998 , 1997 .

Last updated: Fri Mar 19 10:07:44 PST 2004
California State Science Fair / Changes for 2004 /