Recommendations for Judging Human Factors/Ergonomics in Science & Engineering Fairs
One of the major objectives of the Foundation for Professional Ergonomics (FPE) is to provide leadership in growing the profession. While few middle school or even high school students are aware of the fields of human factors and ergonomics, the topics addressed in our profession are interesting, relevant, and engaging for many students. Often, they are interested in studying ergonomics topics without knowing that the field exists.
FPE encourages efforts to raise awareness of human factors and ergonomics among students and the general public. One way that this has been done successfully has been to judge science and engineering fairs as a professional group. While there are typically many hundreds of entries in local science and engineering fairs, almost none are identified by the students themselves as related to human factors and ergonomics. Instead, professional groups need to search for related projects and then inform the students of our profession as part of the judging interview process. This goes a long way towards raising awareness of the professional fields of human factors and ergonomics and drawing attention to how these fields can benefit our lives.
Many local chapters of professional societies, university departments, and commercial industries participate in judging science and engineering fairs. The Foundation for Professional Ergonomics has compiled judging resources in order to make it easier for organizations to provide this type of professional outreach.
Based on many years of experience in judging science and engineering fairs, the San Diego and the Alamo Chapters of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society have developed a procedure that allows volunteer professionals to participate in an organized, time-efficient manner. This procedure is based on the assumption that the event organizers will be able to provide the titles and online abstracts for the student exhibits in advance of the judging day. The Logistics volunteers use the listing provided by the event organizers to prepare scoring sheets and other materials needed by the Reviewers. The Reviewers review a subset of the student exhibit abstracts and nominate those that relate to human factors and ergonomics for evaluation by the Judges. The Judges interview an assigned subset of the student projects nominated by the Reviewers and collaborate to select the winners. Sample letters to professionals who may wish to participate in one of these roles are provided as Science Fair reviewers & judges. Be sure to recruit a sufficient number of Judges so that no one is overloaded, making it impossible to spend an appropriate amount of time with each student. This interaction is one of the main benefits to the students – and is especially rewarding for Judges.
Several resources are provided for your use with your Judges:
- Standards for Judging Science Projects provides suggestions to assist Judges in evaluating student projects, interviewing students, and sample questions. It can be part of the package provided to Judges prior to the event.
- Reward the Best, Encourage the Rest offers suggestions for Judges when interacting with student exhibitors. It can be part of the package provided to Judges prior to the event.
- Judging Form presents a sample rating form that can be used by the Judges when evaluating student exhibits. The projects assigned to each Judge are indicated along with space for ratings and notes. Judges often find it easier to evaluate components of the project (e.g., method, display, oral presentation) rather than provide an overall single score.
If a sufficient number of Judges has been recruited, it is best to have separate teams of Judges for the Junior and Senior Divisions. Note that Judges are typically only able to consider about 6-8 exhibits within the time allocated for judging by professional groups. However, if time permits, Judges may consider other exhibits that were not nominated, and space is provided for those ratings.
After the first round of judging, the five highest rated projects are identified in each division and then all Judges evaluate those in order to make the final selections for recognition by your group. The Head Judge will then notify the Science Fair organizer of your selections and obtain contact information for the selected students, their schools and teachers, and the abstracts for their projects.
Recognition – While the Science Fair organizer will announce the awards from your professional group, it is highly recommended that you also recognize the students in some way. At the very least, publish the student names, project titles, and schools for the projects that you selected as noteworthy in your newsletter or website. Professional society chapters have used a number of additional ways to recognize students, including certificates, cash awards, opportunities to present their project to the professional group at a meeting or recognition dinner, and tours of universities or work places of members so that students can see human factors and ergonomics applications in practice.
Thank you for your interest in raising awareness of the Human Factors/Ergonomics profession and in recognizing excellence in student projects. We have found that participating in science and engineering fairs has had a big impact in teaching students and families about our field, in generating interest in doing future projects related to human factors and ergonomics, and in raising our visibility among other regional science and engineering organizations. Best wishes for a successful event. We’re confident that you’ll find it to be a rewarding experience.