University of Southern Indiana

Getting Started (K-8)

Welcome to the Elementary and Junior Division Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair webpage! Hopefully, you are here because you are interested in facilitating one or more of your students' engagement with scientific research. On this page, you will find the steps you will need to take to walk them through the process, however, there may be times when you need more direction or input. Remember, it is likely that if you have a question that is not answered on this site, others are experiencing the same uncertainty.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I can be contacted at or by phone at 812-228-5019.

Step 1

Read the Rules for Indiana Elementary and Middle School Science Research and the Dates to Remember documents. Keep these documents handy!  

Step 2

As a teacher, you should log into the registration website as soon as possible. If you need assistance with this, I can help you.  Please reach out! The director will send emails periodically with important announcements and fair updates.  If you are not in the database, the director cannot send you the information that you need in order to keep you up-to-date. 

Step 3

Spend time with students discussing the types and methods of scientific studies (Rules for Indiana Elementary and Middle School Science Research, pg. 9) as well as prohibited/restricted topics for elementary/junior projects (see Step 4 below).  Teams of up to three members are permitted at the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair. 

Step 4

Approve the project proposal or work with the student to amend the project so that it meets guidelines found in the Rules for Indiana Elementary and Middle School Science Research document. For the Elementary/Junior Division, some research topics are not permitted or are allowed with restrictions. If you have any questions or concerns about the eligibility or safety of project proposals, please contact the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair Director ( Please remember the safety of the experimenter and the community must always be a priority and are the responsibility of the teacher and parent to monitor. 

  • Human Subjects may be used only if all experimentation is conducted under adult supervision and student researchers have notified parents of the conditions of the experiment and provided the opportunity for their child to opt-out of participation. A Human Informed Consent Form should be completed by each human subject or their parent(s) prior to experimentation.  EACH SCHOOL MUST ESTABLISH AN INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD (IRB) TO EVALUATE AND APPROVE HUMAN SUBJECTS PROJECTS. 

    What is an Institutional Review Board (IRB) and how do I establish one?  It really isn't as bad as it sounds.  All this means is that you will need to ask a building administrator and your school's nurse or school psychologist (depending on the research study) to review the project proposal and sign-off on a Human Participant Form (Form 4). You, the sponsoring teacher, will also need to sign-off on this form. 

  For more information regarding projects involving human subjects, see page 5 of the Rules for Indiana Elementary and Middle School Science Research document.

  • Biological Agent Studies may not be conducted at all by students in grades K-5. Grades 6-8 may conduct research on approved microorganisms in a school setting as long as the teacher is trained and certified for BSL-1 work. Conducting studies at home using biological agents is prohibited!
    • Approved microorganisms include:
      • baker's yeast and brewer's yeast (except in rDNA studies);
      • Lactobacillus, Bacillus thuringiensis, nitrogen-fixing, oil-eating, and algae-eating bacteria introduced into their natural environment;
      • water or soil microbes not concentrated in media conducive to their microbial growth;
      • mold growth on food items if the experiment is terminated at the first evidence of mold;
      • slime molds and edible mushrooms; and
      • E. coli k–12 (and other strains of E. coli used solely as a food source for C. elegans) that are performed at school and are not subject to additional rules
        for recombinant DNA studies or use of antibiotic-resistant organisms.
    • Is my school a BSL-1?  Most middle schools do not qualify under BSL-1 rules for approval. To be recognized as a BSL-1 laboratory, please complete and return the ISEF Guidelines for Biosafety Level 1 Laboratory Facilities & Operations Self-Assessment Safety Checklist to the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair Director ( Be sure to keep a copy for your records. 
    • Students especially should not culture swabs from animals' mouths, freshwater sources, or doorknobs and water fountains, etc.  THIS IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!
  • Animal Behavior Studies should be reviewed AND MONITORED by a Veterinarian to ensure the safety of the student and animal. 
  • Radioactive substances or equipment that emits any form of ionizing radiation are prohibited.
  • Hazardous Chemicals or reagents, DEA-controlled substances, tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, firearms, and explosives are prohibited.
  • Human and Animal Tissue studies are prohibited for grades K-8.
  • Vertebrate Animal Research involving pain or the withholding of food or water is prohibited.
  • Class IV Lasers are prohibited. The use of any type of laser must be conducted under the direct supervision of a qualified adult. 

Step 5

Experimentation begins! Don't forget to emphasize the importance of keeping a logbook. Their logbooks should contain a dated account of everything that concerns the project. Students should keep detailed notes, original observations, and data from the experiment in the logbook.  Judges at the Tri-state Science and Engineering Fair will be looking for these at their exhibits! In order to meet fair registration deadlines, you should aim for projects to be completed by February 1st. 

Step 6

Assist students in writing abstracts.  Abstracts are very important during the judging process. Abstracts are limited to a maximum of 250 words. The abstract should include the following: a) purpose of the experiment, b) procedure, c) data, d) and conclusions. (Example)

Step 7

Register your students for the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair. You will need to enter each of your exhibiting students' names and non-school generated email addresses into your registration account.  Each student will be given a login username and password. Teams of up to three members are permitted. 

 Step 8

Students enter project information. Students should use the username and password assigned to them to log into the registration system.  They will be prompted to select a category and enter their project information, including their abstracts.  


Animal Sciences
Behaviors and Social Sciences
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Energy: Physical and Chemical
Medicine and Health Sciences
Microbiology and Molecular/Cellular Biology
Physics and Astronomy
Plant Sciences
Robotics, Computers, and Systems Software

 Step 9 (optional)

Assist students in writing a research paper.  See page 9 of Rules for Indiana Elementary and Middle School Science Research for details about the research paper. Although a research paper is optional for the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair, it is required in order to compete at the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair. 

Step 10

Create a display board or presentation for judging. More information regarding judging is forthcoming and will be determined by decisions informed by local, state, and national guidance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Step 11

It's fair time! The fair director will send you a student schedule for judging after registration ends.  Judging will take place during the month of March. A definitive schedule for judging will be released when details are decided.  Don't forget to ask your students to practice discussing their projects and answering questions. Our judges come back year after year because they love interacting with children about their ideas and research! They live for this stuff! 

The Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair is sponsored by...


Website updated August 5, 2021  

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