The questions that you are asking are important; there is often a lot of confusion about how an engineering project should be written up/displayed at a science fair. The most important thing to realize is that you did NOT do a science project. You did an engineering project. (Lots of people call engineering projects science projects, but they are not!) An engineering project is definitely a science FAIR project, but it is not a science project. And since it is not a science project, it must be handled very differently.
The Science Buddies resource on engineering projects is very helpful. In addition, here are a couple of other resources you might find useful:http://synopsys.championship.googlepage ... ngprojectshttp://synopsys.championship.googlepage ... nworkshop2
Both of these resources were put together by teachers who have had students go to ISEF with engineering projects and win prizes.
To address your specific questions,
1. The most important thing is that you met your design criteria. Your criteria may not have been quantitative (e.g. has manual override pilot), but some of them may have been (e.g. consumes less than 10 watts of power). For those design criteria that were quantitative, you should have numerical evidence supporting your claim that you met your design criteria (e.g. readings from a multi-meter). If your criteria are not quantitative, you should make sure that you have concrete evidence that you met your criteria (e.g. a demonstration that you computer can successfully navigate in two dimensions. If you can't physically demonstrate this during judging, a video of the computer performing the task would be of immense value). Whatever your criteria are, you need to provide concrete evidence that your design criteria were met--this might be pictures, numbers, videos, or demonstrations. As long as you can provide convincing evidence that your design criteria were met, it does not matter if those criteria were quantitative.
2. The process you have described is precisely what "redesign and retest" means. Something didn't work the way you had it put together, you realized that, and then you fixed the problem--you redesigned. Fixing "stupid errors" (most of which, in the eyes of judges, are not stupid but simply part of the engineering process) is precisely what the redesign and retest process is about. The most important thing you can do on your board is to tell a story. I would recommend having the initial designs that you worked from on your board, and the final designs on your board. In between, you should have a series of pictures, diagrams, and text that show how you progressed from the initial design to the final product. This includes fixing problems, adjusting components and amounts, and all sorts of other things that you DID. Obviously, you can’t put all of this on your board, so you will pick the highlights and put that on your board so that your board has a sense of flow and development. Everything, however, should be in your notebook!
3 and 4. This is the main point—you met your design criteria! What does this mean? How will your device fill a need? Or improve something that already exists? It’s great that you met your design criteria, but why should I care? You should make it as clear as possible why I should care about the product you’ve made. If it’s a prototype, wonderful! What will it take to make it fully functional and (dare I say) marketable? “Selling” your product is a very real part of the judging process. You need to do research to find out what needs your product will fill, how it will fill those needs, how much your product will cost, and as much other information as possible! By all means mention its future use. Of course you can’t build a completely operation instrument—you probably don’t have the time or the money. But no one will fund a prototype that they aren’t sure will be able to be fully functional and accomplish its purposes.
Here are some judging criteria from an ISEF regional fair: Some of them apply, some of them don’t.
Engineering Goals (For Engineering projects)
1. Does the project have a clear objective?
2. Is the objective relevant to the potential user's needs?
3. Is the solution
(b) acceptable to the potential user?
(c) economically feasible? Unworkable solutions might seem interesting but are not practical. Solutions that will be rejected or ignored are not valuable. A solution so expensive it cannot be utilized is not valuable.
4. Could the solution be utilized successfully in design or construction of some end product?
5. Is the solution a significant improvement over previous alternatives?
6. Has the solution been tested for performance under the conditions of use? (Testing might prove difficult, but should be considered.)
1. Does the project show creativity and originality in
(a) the question asked?
(b) the approach to solving the problem?
(d) the interpretation of the data?
(f) the construction or design of new equipment?
2. An original idea for a project would show greater creativity than a suggested project from a textbook. Obviously no project is creative and original in every aspect. Remember that a creative and original project for high school students is different from that of professionals. Conversely, some projects may contain elements that seem original; the materials may have come from new curricula in textbooks or laboratory manuals unfamiliar to judges.
3. Also consider how much help a student received. A student's or team's approach to solving a problem may seem original, but may have come from a scientist's or engineer's suggestions. If a student received help on a project, any credit for creative ability and originality should reflect the student's own contributions. This should become clear through careful questioning.
4. Creative research should support an investigation and help answer a question in an original way. The assembly of a kit would not be creative unless an unusual approach was taken. Collections should not be considered creative unless they are used to support an investigation, and to help answer a question in an original way.
5. A creative contribution promotes an efficient and reliable way to solve a problem. When judging, make sure to distinguish between gadgeteering and genuine creativity.
1. Was the purpose carried out to completion within the scope of the original intent?
2. How completely was the problem covered?
3. Are the conclusions based on a single experiment, or are there replications?
4. How complete are the project notes?
5. Is the student/team aware of other approaches or theories?
6. How much time did the student/team spend on the project?
7. Is the student/team familiar with scientific literature in the field?
1. Does the student/team have the skills required to do all the work necessary to obtain the data that support the project? Laboratory skills? Computational skills? Observational skills? Design skills?
2. Where was the project done? (i.e., home, school laboratory, university laboratory) Did the student or team receive assistance from parents, teachers, scientists, or engineers?
3. Was the project done under adult supervision, or did the student/team work largely alone?
4. Where did the equipment come from? Was it built independently by the student or team? Was it obtained on loan? Was it part of a laboratory where the student or team worked?
1. How clearly can the student discuss the project and explain the project's purpose, procedure, and conclusions? Make allowances for nervousness. Watch out for memorized speeches that reflect little understanding of the principles.
2. Does the written material reflect the student's or team's understanding of the research? (Take outside help into account.)
3. Are the important phases of the project presented in an orderly manner?
4. How clearly are the data presented?
Here is ISEF judging criteria: http://sciserv.org/isef/judges/judges_criteria.asp
The precise details of how judging works varies from fair to fair; contact your regional fair for details on how the mechanics of the process will work in your specific case.
Let me know if we can be of more help!