This advice is given to the younger students, but applies equally to middle school students. Impressing judges is done with your science and, to a much lesser extent, with your project board. Yes, a colorful project board neatly laid out with beautiful photos will draw attention to it, so working towards that goal is good. However, once a judge starts reviewing your work he/she usually starts by looking at your problem statement/hypothesis, then look at your conclusion, and after reviewing those two they review your abstract, presentation, data analysis, and try to determine how creative and curious you really were. Judges generally follow the point system laid out in the criteria listed on the web site
If a beautiful project board has little or poor science behind it, the judge will score it low and move on to the next. At the middle school level the judge is looking to see if this was a ‘weekend quickie project’ with little data to back it up, or if it was truly an investigation with enough data and proper analysis to draw significant conclusions. Data is important in research.
The more data you have, and the more sophisticated the analysis, the more accurate in your science. This will impress the judges. If your data shows trends, use good analysis and graphically represent those trends. Be careful about making predictions out of the scope of your project. That is, interpreting a cause and effect that you cannot statistically support with your data. At the middle school level, simple statistical procedures should now be second nature. You also know how to get help applying statistical analysis to your data (consult your teachers) and do not draw conclusions that you cannot support with the data you have analyzed.
Some of you will have projects sufficiently sophisticated to infer conclusions beyond that which your data analysis reveals. This conjecture should be in your notebook, and may if there is room on your board, and briefly in your abstract.
Middle school students you are invited to attend the interview sessions. These interviews are for your benefit, but these interviews do not count on the official judging. In fact, all middle school judging results are turned in by 12:30pm on Judging Day. The reason for this is simple fairness. Not all middle school students, some from distant schools, are able to attend the interview period.
We strongly advise middle school students to attend the interviews if it is at all possible, this is a fun and rewarding time for the judges as well as the students. It is a tremendous confidence builder!