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Rules & Guidelines

The goal of the Mount Washington Valley Youth STEM Expo is to inspire young people to explore, experiment and innovate using science and technology and to encourage scientific inquiry and pursuit of a project of scientific experimentation, investigation or engineering design.


Students can enter projects in any of the following:

Behavioral & Social Science

Computer Science & Robotics

Earth & Environmental Sciences

Flora & Fauna

Energy & Space

Inventions & Innovation




Food Science

Electricity & Electronics


For Safety Reasons, all projects must observe the following restrictions.

Exceptions must obtain approval from the MWV Regional STEM Expo safety committee before beginning research. To receive safety committee approval, students must submit a copy of the research plan and copies of any standardized or student-prepared tests or surveys.


Please email materials to:

MWV Regional STEM Expo Safety Committee c/o Emily Calderwood 

Please refer any safety questions or petition for exceptions to:

MWV Youth STEM Expo Review Committee c/o Emily Calderwood 

The following subject areas are not allowed at any stage of the project under any circumstances.

  • Ingestion or inhalation of any substance by human subjects

  • Recombinant DNA

  • Hazardous chemicals - See OSHA List of Hazardous Chemicals

  • Compressed gas (including, but not limited to CO2)

  • Explosive chemicals

  • Hazardous substances or devices (including, but not limited to BB guns, paintball guns, potato cannons, air cannons)

  • High voltage equipment

  • Highly toxic chemicals

  • Lasers (any strength)

  • Ionizing radiation X-rays or Radioactive materials

The following subject areas may be allowed on a limited basis with approval of the safety committee and subject to restrictions.

  • Human Subjects - All projects involving human subjects are prohibited except for the following.

    • Anonymous survey-based projects (may not collect personal data or pose health risks)

    • Noninterfering behavioral observations in a public setting

  • Nonhuman Vertebrate Animals and Tissue Cultures - Projects involving vertebrate animals (alive, dead, parts, tissues, etc.) and their parts are not allowed except the following.

    • The use of meat or meat by-products obtained from stores, restaurants or packing houses animal hair obtained through normal bushing procedures

    • Observations of normal animal behaviors in a non-interfering manner.

    • Plant tissues

    • Established cell and tissue cultures (e.g., obtained from the American Type Culture Collection). The source and catalog number of the cultures should be identified in the Research Plan

  • Biological or Pathogenic Agents - disease-causing or potential disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, viroids, prions, rickettsia, fungi, mold, and others are not allowed. Organisms collected, isolated, and/or cultured from any environment (e.g., air, soil) are considered potentially pathogenic and experiments using these procedures will not be allowed. Raw or partially processed human/animal waste is considered to contain potentially pathogenic agents.

    • The following categories may be exempted on a limited basis under the supervision of a qualified mentor in an appropriate lab setting, including:

      • baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast, except when involved with rDNA studies.

      • Lactobacillus, Bacillus thurgensis, nitrogen-fixing, oil-eating bacteria, slime mold and algae-eating bacteria introduced
        into their natural environment (not exempt if cultured in a petri dish environment that could potentially be contaminated).

      • studies of mold growth on food items if the experiment is terminated at the first evidence of mold.

      • research using manure for composting or other non-culturing experiments and fuel production.​

  • Controlled Substances - include DEA-classed substances, prescription drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

General Project Requirements

For all STEM Expo projects, students are expected to state a question and work to find an answer through experimentation or investigation using the Scientific Process (fair test) or to define a problem and design a solution using the Engineering Design Process (invention). Students will present their work by preparing an academic research poster. Effective research or design posters should summarize your research or design process and briefly but effectively communicate your results and what was learned. 

A suggested format includes:

  • A Goal, which should

    • state a question or problem

    • propose a hypothesis or solution

  • A Plan, which should include

    • your methods or procedure

    • relevant materials and equipment

  • Results and Analysis, including

    • relevant data collected

    • analysis – trends, patterns, anomalies, errors, new questions for future research, etc.

    • concluding statement about what was found

  • Communication

    • Research Poster

    • Interview

    • Lab notes or a lab report, including research and sources

Project entries must:

  • be new research projects done in the current school year.

  • be entirely the work of the individual student or team. Team members will be addressed and scored on individual participation.

  • be original work. Plagiarism will result in disqualification.

  • follow the Scientific Inquiry Process or the Engineering Design Process and seek an answer to a question or solution to a problem. Demonstrations or models will not be allowed.

  • follow Academic Research Poster guidelines.

Project Display Guidelines

Students must adhere to all display guidelines provided. If the MWV Youth STEM Expo Committee considers the presence or operation of any equipment or material to be dangerous or unsafe, it shall have the right to prohibit the presence or operation of such equipment or material. Exhibitors may demonstrate the safe use of materials through photographs, videotapes, charts, diagrams, and other simulations. During judging and exhibition times, students must remain with
their projects. Cell phone use is not allowed during judging.

  • Projects must fit into a 40” x 26” table space.

  • Wall space for posters is not available. Design your exhibit so that all posters, charts, and displays are free-standing.

  • Mercury thermometers are prohibited.

  • Knives and other sharp objects may not be displayed.

  • Microorganisms may not be displayed.

  • Drugs, over-the-counter medications, antibiotics, and vitamins may not be displayed.

  • All power-driven parts must be suitably guarded to prevent unauthorized or accidental access.

  • Access to electrical outlets is limited, so please bring a heavy-duty/three-pronged extension cord. Details will be collected from you and your group about your need for access to an
    electrical outlet.

  • All exhibits that require an external (non-battery) source of electricity for operation must be designed for a standard 110-125 volt AC supply.

  • Bare wire and exposed knife-type switches are permitted on 12-volt DC circuits or less. Approved standard enclosed switches are required for all other electrical installations.

  • Wet-cell batteries with open tops are not permitted. Closed-cell or dry-cell batteries are permissible.

  • The operation of high-pressure vessels and pressurized systems is not permitted. There must be no open flame, torch or burner in the display area.

  • All microwave and radio frequency sources must be designed and operated in compliance with state and federal regulations and applicable standards of the American National Standards Institute.

Designing Effective Research Posters

Research Posters are widely used in the academic community and at research conferences to share and communicate research findings. An effective research poster summarizes research and results concisely and attractively to help publicize it and generate discussion. A poster is usually a combination of brief text mixed with tables, graphs, and pictures. At the STEM Expo, the researcher stands by the poster display while other participants and judges can come and view the presentation and interact with the author.

Guidelines for Making a STEM Expo Display

Effective Science Research Posters:

  • Are engaging, easy to read posters that convey what was researched, how it was done and what was learned in a clear readable format of around 800 words or less.

  • Include essential, or important information only. They generally have the same parts as a lab report, but typically do not go into as much detail as a lab report. Consider what is your goal, plan, and analysis.

  • Your goal should include your research question, or design problem and a hypothesis or proposed solution.

  • Your plan should give the reader a good idea of what was done. Identify variables, explain basic procedures and data collection, and focus on unique processes or actions. Listing the most important steps (more like a recipe) is better than a narrative.

  • Results and analysis should include only data relevant to your conclusion. Discussion should focus on what you learned and any interesting findings, noting patterns or surprising results. Tables, graphs, charts, and pictures are very useful to help show data.

  • Conclusions should summarize key points.

  • Numbered or bulleted lists are easy to read, make use of them.

  • Include lab notes or reports on the table to be referenced during discussions if needed.

  • Text should be large print and clear. Readable for someone standing 5 - 10 feet away.


It may be helpful for the researcher to answer the following questions about their research:

  1. What is the most important/interesting/astounding finding from my research project?

  2. How can I visually share my research with STEM Expo attendees and judges? Should I use charts, graphs, photos, images?

  3. Can some information be conveyed by talk, demonstration, or lab notes/report to complement my poster?


STEM Expo posters are meant to communicate scientific information in a clear and concise way so that it can be quickly read and understood. They summarize the key points and what was learned. Additional information should be conveyed during an interview or via notebooks or reports.

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