Notes to Students

Things you really need to know


Information for all Students

The Central Northland Science & Technology Fair is an exciting competition for students who are passionate about and excel in Science and Technology.  In order to assist students to put their best foot forward, advice is offered below.  It includes important information for all students, specific information for students in Years 7-11 and specific information for students in Years 12-13.


It is recommended that both students and teachers are familiar with this information.

Choosing the right Category:  Investigation or Technology

There are two categories available for entry at the Central Northland Science and Technology Fair. The categories are Investigation and Technology.


It is important that the correct category is selected.  Selection of the correct category demonstrates a certain degree of scientific knowledge, but more importantly exhibits which are place in the wrong category will be disadvantaged.


Exhibits cannot be moved to other categories on the day and the judges will need to mark for their respective categories.   An outstanding investigation project for example will perform poorly in a technology category for example – it won’t deliver what it takes to win the technology prize, the requirements are different.

Each exhibit may be entered by one or two students, an exhibit presented by three or more students will not be accepted.


The following is provided as a guide to assist with appropriate choices for category entry.



This is a scientific investigation of a chosen topic using fair testing methodology to discover a result and draw conclusions. All activity on the investigation MUST be recorded in a log book that accompanies the presentation board.


The exhibit needs to cover:

  • Aim – what is the investigation trying to achieve?

  • Variables – independent, dependent and constant factors of the investigation

  • Hypothesis – what does the student expect to find coupled with a scientifically based justification?

  • Method – written record of the experiment steps.

  • Diagrams – of experiments and equipment used

  • Unit of measure – how have results been recorded?

  • Results – using words and graphing

  • Conclusion – directly linked to the results thereby proving or disproving the hypothesis.



This is NOT an investigation therefore it does not have an aim, hypothesis or method. All activity on the process MUST be recorded in a log book that accompanies the presentation board.


The exhibit needs to cover:

  • Problem – an identified problem the student will attempt to solve.

  • Possible solutions – identification of a number of solutions that could be attempted.

  • Market Research – what is already available in the market place to solve the problem? How is the student improving upon that?

  • Opportunity – an identified solution pathway the student will pursue to production of a prototype model

  • Design brief – specifications for production of the prototype model including diagrams

  • Production materials – identified materials used in the production process with consideration of such things as safety, availability, aesthetics, practicality and costs

  • Testing – how well does the prototype meet design brief specifications and solve the identified problem?

  • Modifications – changes to the original prototype to improve testing results

  • Market Research – does the end prototype meet user expectations?

  • Conclusions – directly linked to the end point market research and testing results


Log Books

Log books are an integral and essential part of your project is an important support document to the final written project presented on the exhibit board or Conference Poster.


Log books provide an important record of how you planned your project, how your project progressed, how important information was collected and interpreted and any assistance you had completing your project.  A log book should contain (as a minimum) evidence of:


  • Focusing and Planning

    • Collection of background material leading to an hypothesis, aim or testable question

    • The development of a method that tests the hypothesis

    • An outline of the method used to investigate the hypothesis

  • Carrying out an investigation

    • Tabulated raw data

    • Amendments to the draft method that have been made during the investigation

  • Interpretation of data

  • A statement of findings

  • Collection of background material that assists in correlating the findings to established scientific knowledge

  • A draft of the discussion and conclusion.


Together with your interview and your exhibit, your log book demonstrates how well you meet the criteria they are assessing.  Log books are so important, that the judges cannot fully determine how many marks your project is worthy of without a log book. It is used to verify the authenticity of a project. The Judges are looking for evidence of planning, the raw data and the interpretation of data and scientific understanding of the entrant.


Years 7-11 and Years 12-13 have different exhibit requirements and need to be assessed differently because of this.


Students in Years 7-11 log books are compulsory and are an entry requirement at the Central Northland Science and Technology Fair. Year 7-11 exhibits without a log book will not be judged.  No log book, no marks, no exceptions.


Students in Years 12-13 do not produce standard exhibits, but instead present Conference Posters.  Log books are considered to be supporting materials for a Conference Poster.  Supporting materials are optional for the exercise. While judges will mark a Conference Poster without supporting materials, questions which cannot be adequately answered or assertions and conclusions which cannot be validated will have a detrimental impact on the assessment.  Accordingly, students in Years 12-13 will leave log books at home at their own risk.



Students in Years 7-11 need to attend an interview with the judges marking their project.  The interview is quite relaxed, it is not formal, but it is important.  Interviews are a chance for judges to talk with students to find out more about the project and the depth of a student’s scientific or technological knowledge. 


Students in Years 12-13 need to ‘present’ a Conference Poster.  This time with the judges is more formal.  It is much less question and answer format and students will need to take on more responsibility conveying information about their project orally.  Judges will ask questions, but the delivery of the presentation is within the students control and it will be up to them to verbally convey necessary information in a memorable way.


Regardless of being a Year 7-11 doing an interview or a Year 12-13 presenting a Conference Poster, students should be prepared to answer questions like the ones given as examples below.


  • What [investigation] observations or [technology] needs or opportunities made you choose this project?

  • Where did you get the idea for this project?

  • How did you decide which category to enter your project in?

  • What more can you tell me about your [technology] researching the need / finding out about existing solutions / coming up with a new idea / developing your solution / checking that it has the qualities those who wanted it thought were important ... ?

  • How did you decide that your approach was sufficiently original or better than had been done previously to continue?

  • What more can you say about your [investigation] experiments / surveys / field observations / apparatus / equipment ... ?

  • Now can you take me through [investigation] some of the results you obtained / [technology] development steps you carried out?

  • How do you know that your data is reliable?

  • How did you decide what best met the need/opportunity you had identified?

  • What were the major problems in developing your idea?

  • What were the main findings [investigation] which helped you reach this conclusion / [technology] helped you decide your solution met the needs of the end-users?

  • How are you sure your 'solution' meets the needs of your identified users?

  • What were the tricky bits of this project?

  • Did you have some help in designing the experiments / surveys / development steps … you have used here?

  • What did you do to determine if someone had done this before?

  • Where did this equipment / material / display item… come from? Did you have help in setting it up?

  • Did you start out to investigate / develop… ? Did your ideas change? Are the results what you expected?

  • Why did you decide to display the results / development like this?

  • If you were going to take this project further what would you do?

  • What problems did you have?' 'How did you recognise them?

  • What performance criteria were most important? How did you measure them?

  • What tests/measurements did you do to see if your development was on the right track?

  • If it was to be mass produced, what further development do you think needs doing?

  • When did you start working on this?

  • How many trips / experiments / surveys / design cycles / ... did you carry out?

  • Have you measured or estimated technological aspects such as: efficiency, optimisation, reliability (and/or mean time between failure), cost-effectiveness, appropriate materials, safety, ergonomics, aesthetics …?

  • Where did you get some of the other data / information?

  • Did you talk to others about this project? Parents, teachers, family friends, scientists / technologists, others at school ... ?

  • What records did you keep while doing this project?

  • Tell me how these models / items of equipment / display materials ... came to be made?

  • Have you had any problems with this equipment?

  • Tell me about these plants / animals, are they easy to grow or have you had some losses?

  • Did you do this typing / word processing / illustrating / painting / layout … ?

  • Do you have a home workshop – did someone give you a hand?

  • Where did you learn to do this?

  • Did you devise / modify the computer program / peripherals yourself?


What if a student cannot attend an interview or the Conference Poster presentation?

At the 2017 AGM, it was agreed that if the Student is not present for the interview or the Conference Poster presentation, then the exhibit will not be considered eligible for any of the Class or Special Awards. However, if the exhibit is a joint project, it will still be considered if only one of the students can attend.



Some projects may have ethical considerations that need to be taken into account.  Projects which require ethics approval will not be accepted to Central Northland Science and Technology Fair unless the approval is obtained.


Ethical Approval required for the use of animals in research and teaching in schools and early childhood centres.


Any activity in schools and early childhood centres in which a live animal [mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish (bony or cartilagineous), octopus, squid, crab (including half crab), lobster, crayfish (including freshwater crayfish), mammalian, avian or reptilian foetus in the last half of gestation or development, or marsupial pouched young as defined in the Animal Welfare Act 1999] is used for teaching or research requires ethical approval.  For forms and more information go to: http://www. This website gives educators legal, ethical and practical information on the use of small animals for research and teaching in early childhood education centres and schools.


Approval is required from the New Zealand Association of Science Educators where an animal is involved in a project. The NZASE Ethics Approval Flow Chart is displayed below.


For more info check out this website:





































  • For the purpose of the Animal Welfare Act an “animal” means any living animal and it may be a vertebrate or an invertebrate as specified in the Act.

  • Any investigation involving animals (vertebrate or invertebrate) that may be NZ endangered species requires Animal Ethics approval.


Guidelines for the use of Humans in experiments and research

These ethical practice guidelines are for students and teachers engaged in school research and other projects that involve people (other students, family, members of the community). These guidelines are not mandatory. They were developed for the Ministry of Education.


For the guidelines please visit:


Requirements for Year 7 to 11 students

Students in Years 7-11 are required to:


  • Produce and exhibit to display their project

  • Provide a log book for their project

  • Attend and interview with the judges marking their project


Exhibit Dimensions

Full maximum dimensions for exhibits are given below. Cardboard display boards of differing dimensions may be purchased through a number of retailers. Students also have the option of making a wooden board providing it is within maximum allowable dimensions. Exhibit displays must fit within the space of the display board on exhibition tables.


At the Central Northland Science and Technology Fair you are limited to a space 90cm wide by 75cm deep. The height maximum of your board is 100cm. You also have an option of an additional 20cm height for TITLE SPACE ONLY. Your displayed prototype and / or investigation pieces MUST fit within the display area between the board ‘wings’. Failure to comply with these dimensions may result in disqualification.








































Requirements for Year 12 and 13 students

Senior students will submit and present a Conference Poster for judging.  The intention is foster a collegial learning and sharing environment whilst having some fun.


The changes have taken both NCEA and Cambridge Educational systems into account.  Our expectation is that students completing the 2.1 3.1 units for NCEA will still be able to use that work to enter the Fair. We also believe that a number of other NCEA units for Science, Technology and Sustainability could also contribute to projects for the Fair, depending on the chosen topic.   

Students in years 12 and 13 are required to:

  • Produce an A0 sized Conference Poster. 

  • Submit the Conference Poster to the Central Northland Science & Technology Fair Committee in PDF format by the closing date for entries (see Calendar for this year's date). The Conference Poster should be submitted as an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file and emailed to the Central Northland Science & Technology Fair Administrator at

  • The committee will arrange for the Conference Posters to be printed.

  • Present the Conference Poster to the Judges.  This replaces the previous power point presentation process.

  • Presenting (Speaking to) the Conference Posters will be scheduled on the Monday afternoon, following an open period where students can peruse all the Conference Posters.

  • There is no need to attend during the Monday morning set up time.  Students may stay to listen to the other presentations if they wish.  Support materials (including log books) can be used, at the student’s discretion.

  • The judging criteria is currently under review, however it will contain an element of peer review – where other students comments will contribute to the judging.


Conference Posters

A scientific paper as a Conference Poster (Poster Presentation) is how the majority of cutting-edge science research is shared between researchers at conferences throughout the world. They have the choice between giving an oral presentation (power point display, standing at the front of an audience talking aloud) or a poster presentation. There are usually only a dozen slots for the first and hundreds for the second, depending on the size of your conference. Most of the speaking slots go to the famous older scientists, so students and early-career researchers get very good, very quickly at their Conference Poster skills. And to add a sweetener - there are always Conference Poster prizes.


A Conference Poster is a visual representation of your paper, dissertation or thesis. These three things are basically all just a story about your research, written with lots of big words and important data from your experiments. Like a school science report on steroids.


At a scientific conference you usually get given a time slot in which you must stand with your poster and present it to anyone interested in hearing about your work. So this means that, firstly - your poster has to grab the attention of people wandering past, and secondly - that you have an engaging speech written to 'present' your work to people when they come up to you and ask about your project.


When you talk to your poster (do your little speech) you need to get across why you did the work, how you did it, what you found - and what this means in a wider context. Cool - you found out worms poop blue by keeping a worm farm - what does this mean for everyone else?! You want to make the person remember you, have confidence in your research skills and to remember your results.


Design Tutorial Links

The links below for poster design tutorials.   The tutorials contain a lot of information and they are aimed at university students doing research, but we think they will helpful to students and  teachers if you view them then pick out appropriate bits  to use and apply at a Year 12-13 level.


Additional Assistance and Poster Examples

The committee is delighted to announce that both teachers and senior students will have access to learning support with Dr Sarah Morgan.  Dr Morgan is a Science Writer and Designer.  She is very skilled and experienced presenting science in a community context and will be an excellent resource for the students.  We will assist arranging some skype contact to facilitate time with Dr Morgan in the very near future.


Dr Morgan has very kindly provided posters as examples into a dropbox here: 

for you to download and share with your students.   Some of the posters are by Dr Morgan, others are by her friends, who have kindly given their permission to use to help educate students about Conference Posters.  The google search here

will find millions of other examples.


Pending Information

  • A submission deadline will be set for the Conference Posters to be provided to the committee in electronic format.  We will arrange for printing.

  • A new judging schedule will be developed and circulated as soon as possible.

  • Additional pointers and tips will be made available as appropriate. 



There are several very worthwhile prizes that would really benefit students:

  • Specials - Besides the Class Awards there are lots of special awards which offer prizes of between $50 and $200.

  • Consistent Excellence Award - Northpower gives a $1000 grant to a senior student who has shown consistent excellence in three or more Science Fairs. They get the grant when they go to university.

  • Otago “Hands On Science” Award -  for Years 11-12, where the winner goes to Otago University for a week in January - check it out on

  • Nomination - to the Prime Ministers Future Scientist Prize.  This is a national level competition with a prize value of $50,000 should the student win that competition.  Nominated students will receive support to prepare their application.