Participants and Parents

Fair Schedule    

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Benefits of Participating

More Competitions

Parents Letter

NIRSEF Registration

All exhibitors attending the NIRSEF can pre-register online by Friday, February 22, 2019 and provide information about whether they can be advanced to HSEF/ISEF.

Exhibitors can also register, and pay the $12 fee, in person Friday evening during early setup, or on the day of the fair.

NIRSEF Schedule


5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Open for Project Set-up (Stepan)


7:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Open for Project Set-up (Stepan)

9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Project Judging (closed session)

12:30 pm to 1:30 pm

Exhibitor Lunch (closed session)

1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m


3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m

Awards Presentation

4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m

Remove Project

Please note that parents and teachers are not allowed in the Stepan Center during judging and lunch from 9AM-1:30PM. The Fair will open to the public at 1:30PM. There are many adults around to ensure the safety of all exhibitors, and a trained medical professional is on duty in the event of any medical situations. Only in emergency situations will exhibitors be allowed to leave Stepan Center before the Award Ceremony is completed (approximately 4:00 p.m.); and before doing so, they must obtain the permission of the Fair Director. Any exhibitor with special needs may contact the Executive Director to make necessary arrangements.

The Northern Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair cannot be responsible for lost or stolen items. We will have persons continually patrolling the area, but to decrease the possibilities of theft, we ask that students stay with their projects. Please keep track of your awards and ribbons!

Please bring the following:

  • Your project display 

    • Computer (optional) - if you want to show videos and/or pictures of your work 

    • Extension cord (optional) - if you bring a computer or other equipment requiring electricity

    • Check for items NOT allowed in your display

  • Please bring your signed forms

    • All grades: 2019 NIRSEF Participation Waiver to be turned in upon check-in.  

    • Grades 3-8 - Forms 1-Checklist For Adult Sponsor, 1A, 1B

    • Grades 6-8 - Forms 1-Checklist For Adult Sponsor, 1A, 1B along with any SRC or IRB forms - keep these with your project.

    • Grades 9-12 - Research Plan along with any SRC or IRB forms - keep these with your project in case you are asked for them.  All required forms and abstract should be uploaded to the SEFI website before Feb 15, 2019.

  • A book to read in between visits with judges

  • Exhibitors can bring a sack lunch and may wish to bring a snack for the morning session as the judging period is lengthy. They may also bring beverages that are contained and capped, though they may not keep them in the display area. There will also be a concession stand during lunch with the following menu

Pizza Slice








Bottled Water    


Capri Sun


Directions and Parking

From the east or west: Enter Notre Dame campus from the north off of Douglas Road. At the intersection of Douglas and Wilson Drive (about one mile east of US 31/933 and one-quarter mile west of the Twyckenham roundabout), drive south on Wilson and turn right (west) onto Stepan Drive.

From the south: Drive north on US 31/US 933 North remaining on US 933 North through the city of South Bend. As you continue north, you will drive by Memorial Hospital (west side of road) and over the St. Joseph River Bridge. Continue driving north as the Notre Dame Campus becomes visible on your right (east) side to Douglas Rd. (about 2 miles north of Memorial Hospital). The US 933N/Douglas Road intersection is at the intersection that you would enter the IN Toll Road to head west. Stay in the right lane, as you will be turning right onto Douglas Rd (east). Follow the 2 roundabouts to stay on Douglas and at the intersection of Douglas and Wilson Drive (about one mile east of US 31/933 and one-quarter mile west of the Twyckenham roundabout), turn right (south) onto Wilson drive then turn right onto Stepan Drive (west).



Short term parking for project drop offs and pick ups is available at the B16 lot south of Stepan Center. This lot can be accessed from Stepan Drive. Stepan Center is on the north side of the Notre Dame campus, on Stepan Drive between Wilson Dr. (on the east) and Juniper Rd. (on the west).

Long term parking is available in the D2 lot north of Stepan Dr. (circled on this map). This lot is accessed from Wilson Dr. and is a short walk from Stepan Center.

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Each student talks with many judges during the morning who all use the ISEF judging criteria as a guideline. NIRSEF may adjust the catgeory of some projects for our fair to better match judging teams. If the project advances to HSEF, ISEF categories will be followed.

If you are interested in becoming a judge, please contact NIRSEF.

During the judging period and lunch only the exhibitors, judges, NIRSEF Committee and other Volunteers will be permitted in the entire Fair area. The Fair will NOT be open to the public, including parents, until 1:30 p.m. 

Category Awards:

Projects are to be judged for a First, Second, Third or Honorable Mention ribbon taking into consideration the grade level of the student. Each project is to be judged relative to itself and the ISEF judging criteria, rather than relative to others in its Category. Thus, all projects in a Category could be awarded a first place ribbon (rare) or no project could be awarded a first place (also rare). The Category placing does not impact an exhibitor's eligibility to be selected by the Special Awards Teams to advance to the HSEF (a first place ribbon does not indicate a project will advance and a second/third/honorable mention ribbon does not indicate that a project will not advance).

All NIRSEF participants receive either a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Honorable Mention ribbon within their Category. The Category Awards ensure that each project receives feedback and an accolade for participating but do not influence the Special Awards Teams’ Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair selections.

Independent Awards:

Independent Awards are provided by regional organizations, groups, and companies who determine the criteria for their own awards, generally to acknowledge excellence projects related to their organizational mission. These awards do not impact which projects are selected to advance to the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair.

Special Awards:

The Special Awards Teams select those projects that will be advancing to the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair from each of the 5 Divisions based on the ISEF judging criteria: Elementary Life (2 projects to HSEF), Elementary Physical (2 projects to HSEF), Junior Life (3 projects to HSEF), Junior Physical (3 projects to HSEF), and Senior (10 projects to HSEF). Neither the Category or the Independent Awards are known to or considered by the Special Awards Teams in their selections.

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Benefits of Participating

The following statement is excerpted, with thanks, from the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair Web site:

"Why do I need to learn this stuff?" 

A science fair project is the ultimate answer to the often asked student question: "Why do I need to learn this stuff, anyway?"

It integrates, into one functional activity, virtually all of the skills and arts that are usually taught separately (sometimes not at all or without obvious "purpose") in many schools. When brought to completion, the project is an amalgamation of reading, writing, spelling, grammar, math, statistics, ethics, logic, critical thinking, computer science, graphic arts, scientific methodology, self-learning of one or more technical or specialty fields, and (if the project qualifies for formal competition) public speaking and defense in front of expert judges. It is, perhaps, the only educational activity that allows students to teach themselves, to take from the established information what they need to discover something exciting and new, and to identify and choose the tools that they need to conduct and conclude their project. When a student completes a science fair project, year after year, through junior and senior high school, the science fair process yields mature, self-confident, skilled, and competitive young leaders who have career goals and the preparation, discipline, and drive to attain them.

Condfidence and the Thrill of Discovery

A science fair project can be self-validating and exciting because it is not just practice. It involves real discovery of little known or even unknown information.

It develops personal power of importance in students, where perhaps none or little existed before. The project usually is based on scientific questions or interests that the students already have, and allows them to develop the questions independently into formal, testable, solvable problems. When such studies are undertaken in earnest, the students often become driven by their projects. Learning the outcome and finding the answer can be an electrifyingly powerful moment of discovery. It proves to students, and to others, that they were successful and that they did it on their own! The result? An ordinary student is motivated to become an excellent student, and an excellent student to become a scholar. Of all the programs that a school might offer a student to improve self esteem, it seems that participation in a science fair is one sure-fire way to build student confidence, challenge potential, and instill the incredible feeling of independent achievement that the successful science fair project provides.

The Many Rewards

Science fair projects can pay off in cash and open the doors of academic opportunity.

Well-done projects generally lead to competition and awards at Intel® ISEF-affiliated regional fairs. First-place winners at regional fairs usually have the opportunity to compete for additional awards in the California State Science Fair. Top first-place winners from junior and senior divisions in many fairs are selected as sweepstakes winners and receive cash awards. Additionally, selected senior sweepstakes winners (the best of the best) go on to compete with other grand prize winners from throughout the world for substantial cash and scholarship prizes at the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Perhaps most importantly, however, graduating high school students with records of awards for original research or engineering at the regional fair and beyond, have a distinct advantage over other college applicants in being considered and accepted by the schools of their choice. This is because science fair honors rank high among the screening factors used by admissions officers at most top universities.

Lastly, students who participate in regional fairs have their projects evaluated by top local scientists from research and industry. Participants whose projects are judged to be worthy of international competition will be judged by the top scientists of the world. Imagine your student discussing a project with a Nobel Prize winner. The exposure and self confidence such an opportunity generates cannot be quantified. 

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Additional Competitions of Interest

NIRSEF participants compete to advance to the state level, HSEF, where they compete against other students around the state to go to the national level, ISEF.  In addition to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, there are some additional competitions you may want to enter as well.

Regeneron Science Talent Search is for students currently in 11th grade who have completed individual research projects (teams not allowed).

Indiana Junior Academy of Science is designed to encourage high school students to pursue an interest in science study and careers. Indiana high school teachers register their school to participate in the program and accompany their students to the competition.

Indiana Junior Science & Humanities Symposium invites high school students to report on the results of their original research investigations in STEM and compete for scholarships and recognition at university-held regional symposia. All students in grades 9-12 enrolled in public, private, or home schools are eligible to participate in their local Regional Symposium.

Google Science Fair is an online science and engineering competition open to students ages 13 to 18 from around the globe. It encourages them to change the world through scientific inquiry and problem solving. They’ll learn about their chosen topic and develop key skills along the way.

The BioGENEius Challenges are your opportunity to compete on an international stage with some of the brightest scientific minds in the world.

I-SWEEP: The International Sustainable World (Engineering Energy Environment) Project olympiad draws hundreds of the brightest STEM-focused students in the world together each year to compete in a fun and collaborative environment.

Genius Olympiad: GENIUS Olympiad is an international high school project competition about environmental issues. It is  founded and organized by the Terra Science and Education and hosted by the State University of New York at Oswego. GENIUS Olympiad will host projects in five general disciplines with an environmental focus.

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