Albuquerque Chapter of the American Statistical Association

Presenting a "Best Use of Statistics" Award
for a Regional or Statewide Science Fair

NMSEF plaques, 2008
This webpage contains information about presenting a "Best Use of Statistics" award at a state or local science fair based on the experience of the Albuquerque Chapter of the American Statistical Association. In 2005, we resumed giving a "Best Use of Statistics" award at the New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair after a several year hiatus. What follows is a basic description of the process we followed in doing this. We hope it will encourage other chapters to present such awards. We found judging the exhibits to be fun and rewarding and believe that such awards can highlight to a young audience the importance of good statistical methods to science and engineering research.
  1. Contact the local coordinator of the science fair to find out the procedure for giving a special award. For the NM Science and Engineering Fair, this involved sending in a form providing details of our award and the names of judges for it. We found the local coordinator via a google search.
  2. Decide on your prizes. The NM Science and Engineering Fair has two divisions: junior (grades 6-9) and senior (grades 9-12), and students may submit entries as either individuals or as part of a team of 2-3 students. We decided to offer first, second, and third place awards at the senior level. We offered cash, a plaque, and certificates for each prize. (Since a team might win one or more of the prizes, we offered certificates so each student would have something to take home.) Our plaques featured the ASA logo and were ordered from Dinn Trophy. We spoke with Dinn Trophy, and other chapters using Dinn Trophy can use the ASA logo that they scanned in for our plaques at no additional charge. Our certificate template is also available for other chapters to edit and use.
  3. Judge the awards. Seven judges from the Albuquerque Chapter judged the roughly 200 senior exhibits. Students were either present or not present with their exhibits during alternating rounds of judging. For the first round when students were not present, we divided the exhibit hall into sections, with each judge choosing the best 1-2 exhibits from his section. During the next round when the students were present, each judge reviewed all of the exhibits previously chosen and ranked them. Next, the judges caucused to decide upon the winners. This involved discussion and a review of some of the exhibits. The whole process took from about 6 hours, including a break for lunch. We recommend a maximum of 30 projects per judge for the initial screening process.
  4. Follow-up with the prize-winners. We encourage you to follow-up with your prize winners to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their work. This can be done during the event or through email after the event has concluded. If feedback is offered during the science fair, it is important to do this in such a way that the identities of your prize winners are not revealed. Following up with one of our winners led her to an enhanced understanding and better use of the statistical techniques that underlay her results.
  5. Consider soliciting contributions to fund your prizes. The ASA is a non-for-profit corporation and donations made to your chapter to fund science fair prizes are tax deductible as long as the chapter does not provide anything in return for the donation. The letter we have prepared as a receipt for a donation to fund science fair prizes is available for other chapters to edit and use. It is based on language we received from the ASA main office.
Of the three exhibits awarded Best Use of Statistics prizes at the 2005 New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair, two received additional awards at the state level, including one that competed at the national-level, garnering several prizes there as well. We hope this underscores the importance of statistics in science and engineering research to the students and their mentors.

Next year, we plan to provide a plaque to the schools that each of our winners attend. If the schools display these plaques with other awards that their students have won, this may further highlight the importance of statistics in science and engineering to both the student body and potential science fair mentors.

For further information, contact Oleg Makhnin: olegm@nmt.edu.