Overview of the interview process at science expos

How to make the interview a success for the judge and the student

Verbal and non-verbal communication

Students may think of a judge as an intimidating figure. The more you can dispel this image, the more likely you are to help the student be less nervous and get a better discussion.

  • Make eye contact with the student and introduce yourself
  • If the student is short and you are tall, sit down to lower your eye level
  • When a student expresses a good idea, designs a well-developed poster, a clever way to get expensive results with inexpensive equipment, or anything you can compliment, be sure to do so enthusiastically
  • Use a tone of voice that indicates interest or inquisitiveness, not skepticism or contempt.

Conveying Fairness

As a judge, it is most important for you to show the students that you are both fair and knowledgeable. Your fairness is indicated by a few simple actions:

  • You spend about the same amount of time with each student
  • You listen to the student's explanation of the project
  • The questions you ask are intended to find out more about the project and how it was done -- not to embarrass or intimidate the student

Interviewing students

  • Students range in age from 10-18 years old, with varying levels of sophistication. Please ask questions appropriate to their age and level in school.
  • Ask the students to give a brief summary of their project, then begin to ask the questions. A review of the data and interpretation is often useful.
  • Focus on the students you are interviewing and be prepared to listen to answers, then follow up with additional questions. Ask open-ended questions. If it is a team project, be sure to engage all members of the team equally.

Suggested interview questions

  • How did you come up with this project?
  • Why did you choose to use ______?
  • What surprised you about this result?
  • What errors did you run into while doing this experiment?
  • How would you expand this project?
  • How does your apparatus (equipment) (instrument) work?
  • What is the next question to be asked?

Advanced students

Some students at the fair are gifted with extra intelligence, resources, or both.

  • For students who did their work in a research facility, it is important to know exactly what they did. What were their intellectual contributions and their technical contributions? How much do they understand about the big picture of the project?
  • Students who did their work at home or in school should not be penalized for lack of  access to the latest in equipment and guidance.

After fair communication

  • All these students are minors. If there is a student you would like to offer mentoring or lab space, write your email on their comment sheet and the specific offer. It is then up to the student to follow through.
  • To protect both of you, the students are told to include a teacher or parent in all email communications. So use Reply All.

See also Judging Criteria

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