General Concepts and Information

Be sure to read the general rules and requirements, the full category description document (which also contains generic information applicable to all categories), and the rubric for the category (all of which are available at the Judging Information page here).


  • These categories have been again revised from previous years, this time adding a new category (Things) aimed at providing an appropriate place for created objects or makers.
  • The singular concept of Scientific Method has been replaced with the concepts of Science and Engineering practices to reflect the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and modern processes.
  • The 'Living Things' category has been renamed as'The Living World' so as not to conflict with the new 'Things' category.
  • Originality has been added to The Living World, Intelligence and Behavior, and The Physical Universe categories as a significant factor in Judging
  • Science Fiction submittal dates are changed.
  • Minor textual revisions were mate to the existing categories for clarification purposes.


Student entries at STEM Expo will be submitted in one or more of the eight established categories. If there are any questions about where a specific project belongs, please contact the STEM Expo Judging Advisor for assistance.


There are certain concepts and ideas that are used throughout the category descriptions. Rather than re-enter them multiple times, they are presented here.


The traditional model of the Scientific Method is outdated in that it depicts a linear process, while actual scientific advances happen through significantly more non-linear ones. Although the concepts are the same, they have been re-arranged and re-thought out to create the next generation in science standards.
These eight practices are parts of any good scientific or engineering project:

  1. Asking questions (science) and defining problems (engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (science) and designing solutions (engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

But rather than thinking of them numerically, it is better to think of them interdependently as shown in the image. Each connects to and leads to and from every other one, there is no specific sequence that needs to be followed, and steps can be visited more than once. Note that these concepts can be applied in one form or another to all of the categories in STEM Expo.

For more information, see and



Keeping a journal of progress is an important part in several kinds of project. Journals or log books should include all aspects of the project. From daily notes of occurrences and ideas, to hand-drawn sketches, to photos of anything that is occurring (including white-board sketches, or discussion points, for instance.)

Electronic logs are allowed. While, in some venues, it is common to require that the log be handwritten, at STEM Expo it is not required. However, to retain the verification of procedure, it is recommended that non-hand-written logs be printed when each day’s work is completed, set into a binder, and signed and dated. Another common method of recording data is to store the log online, in a public or private blog server, with automatic dating that records when the log was entered, and any changes that are made. – Even in the case of automatic recording, we still recommend that the log be printed and signed at the conclusion of the day’s work.


Students are reminded that it is permissible (and expected) that entries be placed in multiple categories if appropriate.