Toronto Science Fair

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Computing (Further Clarifications)

Each year students, teachers, and mentors have considerable difficulty placing projects that involve a computer in an appropriate division. Where, for example, should a project be placed in which the student has developed a piece of software that simulates the behaviour of forest fires? On one hand, the development of a software application is clearly eligible for the computer division, but the parameters and underlying algorithms require a significant knowledge of environmental science. If this project was judged by a computer software engineer, he/she would likely focus on the design and efficiency of the code, the user interface, and the application of computing technology to a real-world problem. Meanwhile, an environmental scientist might judge the project according to the accuracy and applicability of the simulation, the inclusion and control over appropriate parameters, and the student's knowledge of forest fire dynamics.

An argument can clearly be made for the value of each judge's assessment in the overall evaluation of the project. If the student prefers to be evaluated primarily on his/her engineering with the computer - the algorithm or hardware/software design - then he/she should enter the Engineering and Computing division. If his/her preference is for the project to be evaluated as an innovation in a particular field of science, it should be entered in that division.

When considering entering the Engineering and Computing division, participants should be encouraged to consider which aspect of their project they believe best showcases their knowledge and skill - their software/hardware design, or their work in biotechnology, environmental, health, life, or physical and mathematical science?

Further, while the development of interactive multimedia, relational databases, Internet web sites, analog/digital interfaces, control technology (robotics), etc. were once the domain of sci-tech fairs' finest, they are now standard fare in most Grade 7-12 curricula across the country. With this in mind, potential entrants to the Engineering and Computing division should also consider: Is the project's software/hardware design innovative, well-documented, and significantly advanced beyond the expectations or work of most others at a similar age/grade? If the student believes that the strength of his/her project is in software/hardware design and that the work is innovative and beyond the normal expectations of his/her peers, then the project may be entered confidently into the Engineering and Computing division. Otherwise, the student may be more successful entering one of the other divisions. In many cases where the Engineering and Computing division at first seems appropriate, a closer examination of the strength and focus of the student and the project will suggest another division. However, the final decision regarding division placement rests with the student exhibitor.

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