International Science and Engineering Fair

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Note: The information and dates presented below is specific to the year of 2020-21, and the 2021 Chicago Student STEM Exhibition. Much of this information may change for the 2022 year and Exhibition.

Rules, Regulations, Forms and Judging Criteria
The Rules and Regulations Handbook is available here

A list of the required forms can be found here.
The Criteria for ISEF judging is available here.

Selection of Students
Four outstanding high school exhibit students will be selected to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair
.  All expenses for the International competition is funded by the Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair, Inc., and its corporate sponsors.

Required Approvals and Forms
At the same time that students in grades 9-12 apply for state endorsements and approvals, they should complete the required International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) forms. If the project involves human subjects, an Institutional Review Board will need to be established at the local school. All students must meet with the project sponsor, obtain approval from the Scientific Review Committee, and complete the Checklist for the Adult Sponsor/Safety Assessment Form before beginning experimentation.

Endorsement requests MUST be made PRIOR to experimentation in order to ensure the safety of the test subject(s) and/or the scientist.  The project plans are reviewed by the Scientific Review Committee and, if safe, the endorsement is granted and the experiment may be carried out.  Permission to carry out an experiment CANNOT be given to one that has already been completed.
Endorsement requests are DUE NOVEMBER 11, 2020.

The International Rules and accompanying forms are available electronically for student use at the IESF's website:

Patent and Copyright Information
You may want to consider applying for a patent or copyright if you want to protect your work. You can contact the Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Patent Office, at 1 (800) 786-9199 for patent information or the Library of Congress at (202) 707-3000 for copyright information. Additional information can be obtained from the following two libraries that serve as patent depositories in Illinois: The Illinois State Library in Springfield; and the Harold Washington Library of the Chicago Public Library System (Science and Technology, 4th Floor). For other general facts about patents, you can visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site.

Excerpts from Basic Facts About Patents: (Note: An examination copy of this booklet is available at the Harold Washington Library.)

What is a patent?
A patent is granted by the Government to an inventor “to exclude others
from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States.” There are three types of patents:

  • Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof.
  • Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Answers to the following questions can be answered from reading Basic Facts About Patents.

  • How long does patent protection last?
  • Who owns the patent rights?
  • How do I get a Patent?
  • Do I need to hire a lawyer?
  • What about patent promotion organizations?
  • How do I get help marketing my invention?
  • Is my patent good in foreign countries?
  • Do I need to do a patent search before I apply?

ISEF sources of information for guidelines and regulations that may apply to research and laboratory safety:

CFR Title 45 (Public Welfare), Part 46 - Protection of Human Subjects
Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR)
National Institutes of Health, Building 31, Room 5B63
6100 Executive Blvd., Suite 3B01
Rockville, MD 20892-7507
(301) 496-7005, Fax: (301) 402-2071

Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)
Regulatory Enforcement & Animal Care
U.S. Department of Agriculture
12th & Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural
Research and Teaching (Agri-Guide)
American Dairy Science Association
1111 N. Dunlap Avenue
Savoy, IL 61874
(217) 356-3182

Carcinogens, Chemicals and rDNA
National Institutes of Health
Occupational Safety and Health Branch (OSHB)
Building 31, Room 1C02
Bethesda, MD 20892
(310) 496-2960

Infectious Agents
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Office of Health and Safety
1600 Clifton Road, NE Mailstop FO5
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3235

CDC-NIH Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Office of Health and Safety
1600 Clifton Road, NE Mailstop F05
Atlanta, GA 30333

NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules
Office of BioTechnology Activities
National Institutes of Health, MSC7010
6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 302
Bethesda, MD 20892-7010
(301) 496-9838

Working with DNA & Bacteria in Pre-College Science Classrooms
National Association of Biology Teachers
12030 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 110
Reston, Virginia 20191-3409
1-800-406-0775; Fax: (703) 264-7778