University of Southern Indiana

Getting Started (9-12)

Welcome to the Senior 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 2021-22 ISEF Rules and Guidelines and the Dates to Remember document.  At this point, you should at the very least skim these documents and keep them on hand so when students begin forming research ideas and proposals, you will be able to give them direction by referring to the official rules and guidelines.  

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

Form a site-based Institutional Review Board (IRB) for project proposal approval. 

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 another science teacher, a building administrator, and your school's nurse or school psychologist (depending on the research study) to review the project proposal.  Please complete the TSEF School IRB Form and submit it to the director.  

*Minimum forms needed for ALL Senior Division Projects - Form 1, Form 1a, and Form 1b.  Other forms may be necessary based on individual project topics.

Step 4

Spend time with students discussing the types and methods of scientific studies as well as the safety and ethics protocols associated with the different types of research (See Step 1).  Teams of up to three members are permitted at the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair, however, for the Senior Division we recommend no more than two members per team. 

Step 5

Ask students to submit to you, the teacher, a project proposal.  The research plan should include:

  • Rationale:  a brief synopsis of the background that supports the research problem and an explanation of why the research is important and if applicable, an explanation of the societal impact of the research. 
  • research question(s), hypothesis, engineering goal(s), expected outcomes as they pertain to the rationale above.
  • a detailed description of the procedures and experimental design with methods for data collection. 
  • identification of any potential risks and safety precautions needed.
  • description of the planned procedures for data/results analysis.
  • Bibliography: list of major references used to learn about the topic of research prior to experimentation.

Subject-specific guidelines for additional items may be applicable.  For more information regarding required subject-specific guidelines for human participants research; vertebrate research; potentially hazardous biological agent research; and the use of hazardous chemicals, activities, and devices during research, check out the bottom half of the Research Plan/Project Summary Instructions document (pg. 1). 

Step 6

Approve the project proposal or work with the student to amend the project so that it meets guidelines found in the 2021-22 ISEF Rules and Guidelines. Some projects will be exempt from SRC/IRB approval.  Those projects that require IRB/SRC approval should be reviewed and signed-off on by the IRB that you convened in Step 3.  The chair of the SRC/IRB will sign in box 2a on Approval Form 1B.  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 also remember that the safety of the experimenter and the community must always be a priority and are the responsibility of the teacher and parent to monitor. 

Step 7

Direct students to complete the ISEF Rules Wizard to determine which forms are necessary for their particular project. All projects in the Senior Division will require Forms 1, 1A, and 1B.  Depending on the project type, more forms may be necessary.  Several of these forms require signatures of parents, teachers, and/or qualified scientists BEFORE experimentation begins.  Necessary forms, as indicated by the Rules Wizard, should be carefully completed and stored to later be uploaded for fair registration. I am happy to assist with the completion of these forms.  Please reach out to me via email ( or phone (812-228-5019) as soon as possible for help. It is better to figure it out early than risk disqualification because a form was overlooked. 

All Forms

Step 8

Experimentation begins! First, students should read the appropriate section of the 2021-22 ISEF Rules and Guidelines to be properly informed of safety and ethics protocol. Prior to experimentation, please 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 9

Conclude experimentation and complete all necessary forms.

Step 10

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. The state fair director has provided us with a copy of the Official Abstract Form which includes tips for writing a solid abstract. Consider using this template with your student(s).

Step 11

Add your students to the SEFI databaseYou 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. You will have access to these within your SEFI account. Although their credentials are emailed to them, it is a good idea to print the usernames and passwords and disseminate them to students personally. Teams of up to three members are permitted, however up to two is recommended. 

 Step 12

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 13

Write a research paper.  Senior Division exhibitors should compile their experimentation, results, and conclusions into a research paper in order to be competitive at the regional and state fairs.  Their logbooks will come in very handy for this task.  A format for writing a research paper is available here

Step 14

Create a display board. Display size should not exceed 48” wide x 54” tall(above table) x 30” deep. Display and safety guidelines for all displays can be found by clicking here

Step 15

It's fair time! The fair director will send you a student schedule judging after registration ends. A format for submissions for judging is forthcoming. 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

Contact Allison Grabert


Send Email to