General Category Description Information

Be sure to read the general rules and requirements, the full category description document (which also contains generic information applicable to all categories), and the rubric for the category (all of which are available at the Judging Information page here).


These categories have been drastically revised from previous years so as to provide a wider participation range, while still maintaining STEM Expo’s intent to be the alternative to the traditional science fair. 

In the past, our experience has shown that one category was over-represented by entries. Instead of putting limits on that category, the categories as a whole were revised to split that section into narrower fields and yet broaden them to include entries from categories that (due to size) would otherwise be removed. 

The removed “Environmental/Agricultural Innovation” category is the only one that may be confusing as to where the projects would go. Depending on the actual innovation involved it could fit into any of the Invention and Reverse Engineering, Living Things, or The Physical Universe categories (or possibly more than one).

If there are any questions about where a specific project belongs, please contact the STEM Expo Judging Advisor for assistance.


There are certain concepts and ideas that are used throughout the category descriptions. Rather than re-enter them multiple times, they are presented here.


This important concept can (and should) be used in most of the categories to help improve organization and understandability. The general steps are: 

  1. Ask a question
  2. Research the topic
  3. Make a hypothesis based on that research and/or the entrant’s own knowledge
  4. Design the investigation
  5. Conduct the investigation
  6. Collect data
  7. Make sense of the data and draw a conclusion


Keeping a journal of progress is an important part in several kinds of project. Journals or log books should include all aspects of the project. From daily notes of occurrences and ideas, to hand-drawn sketches, to photos of anything that is occurring (including white-board sketches, or discussion points, for instance.)

Electronic logs are allowed. While, in some venues, it is common to require that the log be handwritten, at STEM Expo it is not required. However, to retain the verification of procedure, it is recommended that non-hand-written logs be printed when each day’s work is completed, set into a binder, and signed and dated. Another common method of recording data is to store the log online, in a public or private blog server, with automatic dating that records when the log was entered, and any changes that are made. – Even in the case of automatic recording, we still recommend that the log be printed and signed at the conclusion of the day’s work.


Students are reminded that it is permissible (and expected) that entries be placed in multiple categories if appropriate.