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Bringing big ideas into focus

We hear from both teachers and students that it can be difficult to develop an idea for a project. We believe the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) has the potential to effectively guide students in developing their own STEM research interests.

MSEF sponsored a group of teachers to participate in workshops at Harvard Graduate School of Education on the Question Formulation Technique (QFT). We're excited to share a blog post from our colleagues at the Right Question Institute about this alignment. Thanks to Billerica Memorial High School teacher Tanya Chiarella for sharing her experience with using the techniques this fall.

Read the Blog Post Here

Check out RQI's outline here or a modified version MSEF developed for Science Fair. Do you use QFT techniques with your Science Fair students? Send us an email to share your story.

FAQs for Fair Participation

What are the deadlines for submitting the project approval forms?

Each Regional Fair has different posted deadlines for paperwork according to Fair dates. For some High School projects and all Middle School projects, this includes a deadline before experimentation starts to allow for safety review. Please visit to find your regional zFairs page for your dates and deadlines.

If the research plan is approved, how will I or the students know?

High School:

  1. Once they have filled out all their forms, students need to email
  2. We will review the forms to make sure they are complete and then assign the project to a volunteer reviewer in the appropriate subject area.
  3. Students should expect a review to take about a week and should keep an eye on their email because sometimes there needs to be back-and-forth for clarification and correction.
  4. The reviewer will hit the ‘approve’ button when finished which sends a notice to the teacher and student. It will also add a note under 'Project Status & Approvals' in the student dashboard.

Middle School:

  1. Students participating in the science fair process MUST get prior approval before starting experimentation. This prior approval MUST come from the Regional Middle School Scientific Review Committee (SRC).
  2. Students will be notified via zFairs about approval status within 10 days.
  3. Any project that has not received approval by the SRC will not be eligible to compete at the Regional or State Level. 
  4. You may contact your region or MSEF at any time when completing the forms to ask for clarification on rules or process before submitting.

Are there different forms for the regional or State Fairs?

All the approval forms and permission forms are the same for students to progress between the regional and state fairs. We also use the same forms as ISEF at the High School level.

Why do students need to fill out forms if they aren't going to proceed to a Regional or State Fair?

The forms are a way to ensure student and community safety, so the reason they exist is good practice regardless of their interest in participating in the Fairs. As one teacher told us "Even if they knew they weren't going to "win", filling out the forms lent a level of authenticity and seriousness to doing our own school fair."

How do teachers decide which students qualify for the regional and/or State fair?

Each school can send approximately 10 projects* to the Regional Fair. Some schools base this on top performing projects and some schools use a showcase model without judging. Students should be chosen based on interest and student performance.

State Fair participation is based on the top student projects at the regional level so distribution is not based on schools. However schools may still send a limited number* of ‘direct entries’ to the State Fair. This could be for students who did not advance at the regional fair or were not able to participate at the regional level due to conflict or illness. Students must still complete the paperwork according to regional deadlines, however.

*Final numbers are determined by region and state fair once participation numbers are known.

Screenshot of how to find your regional zFairs site at

Finding your Regional Info

Your regional information can be found at

Click on the red text under the map to open the drop down menu. Here you will find contact information for the region as well as the zFairs link.

Click Here for the Science Fair Ready Checklist

Middle School

Region 1: April 28 at WNEU

Region 2: May 1 at WPI

Region 3: March 3 at Bristol CC

Region 4: April 29 at UMass Lowell

Region 5: March 18 at Regis College

Region 6: March 3-4 at Northeastern

High School

Region 1: March 10 at WNEU

Region 2: March 10 at WPI

Region 3: March 4 at Bristol CC

Region 4: March 3 at Tufts

Region 5: March 4 at Bridgewater State

Region 6: March 3-4 at Northeastern

zFairs Student Tutorial

We've updated the zFairs Student Tutorial to walk through the process of setting up an account and navigating the paperwork system. As a reminder, teachers need to set up an account before students.

Middle School zFairs Tutorial
High School zFairs Tutorial

Can we come to your school?

We'd love to learn more about your program and support STEM Learning for your students.

Please SIGN UP HERE to request MSEF support for the following opportunities:

  • School Fair visit and/or judging
  • Visit from a STEM professional
  • Feedback session for your students

Finally, don't miss out on Virtual Office Hours

  • Office Hours for Teachers - 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month, 4pm on zoom.
  • Office Hours for Students - 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month, 4pm on zoom

This is an opportunity to ask questions of MSEF about projects, paperwork, and potential resources.  SIGN UP HERE

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Rebekah Stendahl

Program Director

Advancing science and engineering literacy since 1949, the Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair (MSEF) was founded by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, MIT professors, and a group of pioneering K-12 science educators. 

MSEF is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

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Massachusetts Science + Engineering Fair |

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