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Frequently Asked Questions

Tutorials and information on the new website coming soon!

The Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair (SASEF) is the premier science and engineering competition for students in middle and high school in our 23-county service area of East Tennessee. We have promoted teaching the scientific method in science, engineering and math since 1952.

The fair is sponsored by the University of Tennessee and many local companies and agencies. It is held at the UT Thompson Boling Arena during the first week of April. There are two divisions of competition — Junior Division for middle school students, grades 6 – 8, and Senior Division for high school students, grades 9 – 12.

SASEF is an official, affiliated regional fair of the International Science and Engineering Fair.

Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Monroe, Roane, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Washington

The 2020 SASEF will be held March 31 – April 2, 2020 at the University of Tennessee Thompson Boling Arena. Entry deadline is February 28, 2020.


Tuesday, March 31

  • 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM Check in posters
  • 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM Judges view posters (no students)
  • 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM Judges interview students

Wednesday, April 1

  • 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Posters are open for public viewing

Thursday, April 2

  • 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM Awards and Reception

SASEF is open to middle – high school students in its Eastern Tennessee region to present their scientific research from January of the previous year to February of the current year.

SASEF is open to both individuals and teams of students. The Junior Division allows 3 participants to a team and the Senior Division allows 2 participants to a team.

Students may present work for their project which includes no more than 12 months of continuous research and may not include research performed over 18 months from the time of ISEF Fair held in May.

A typical student SASEF project timeline:

August – September

Student selects research topic and begins literature review in library.


Student completes literature review; writes hypothesis, objectives, and methods and materials, prepares data book, and completes necessary ISEF paperwork. *Note that any project requiring SRC approval MUST have the Project Pre-Approval completed and approved before beginning experimentation

November – December

  • Student completes experiment, analyzes data, writes report and abstract.


  • Deadline for Pre-Approval Paperwork is January 15th. All projects that require an SRC committee review MUST submit a Project Pre-Approval by this deadline. All projects that do not require an SRC review, but have not participated in a school science fair, must also submit for Project Pre-Approval.


  • In-school fairs may be held at this time (if held after the Feb 28th deadline, the students qualify for the following year’s SASEF, not this year’s); winners selected to participate in SASEF.
  • Students complete data book
  • Student submits entry forms online at here — due Feb 28th


  • Student and teacher are informed about acceptance into SASEF (listed on this website), all paperwork issues much be resolved.
  • Student prepares poster; practices for judge interviews


SASEF during the last week of March or the first week of April.


The International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) – SASEF sends our top two Senior Division projects and their teachers on an expense-paid trip to compete at ISEF

SASEF now has a new registration website that allows for easier submission of forms and projects.

First: Teachers must register themselves on the Teacher Registration platform. Students cannot register their projects until their teacher has created their profile. Once the teacher’s profile is created, the teacher will be able to view their students’ projects, make edits, see what has been submitted, see any comments from SASEF staff on project needs, and see what has been approved/not approved.

Second: Students, or their teacher, will need to create the Project Account. When creating this account, it will ask from a drop down menu who your teacher is. Please note, that only ONE project account needs to be created per project. If there are more than one student on an account, you can add a second student to that account versus a separate second project.

Third: If required, students will need to submit their Project Pre-Approval. If you do not know if you need a project pre-approval, please view the next drop down item.

Fourth: Students will login to their Project Account and submit their Project Registration & Entry Forms. Entry forms can be found and uploaded in the student’s project account.

Fifth: Every student (not project) participating in SASEF is required to submit registration fees. Registration Fees: $10 before Feb 15, $20 from Feb 15 to Feb 28, $30 from Feb 29 to Mar 8


Entry is due by February 28. SASEF has a new online registration system to submit all required documents and forms. A non-refundable fee is required for each participant (before Feb 15 $10, Feb 15-28 $20, after Feb 28 $30). There is no guarantee that late projects will be judged or appear in the awards program booklet.

You are required to submit pre-approval if you meet either of the following conditions:

  • Your completed ISEF Rules Wizard determined that you require IRB approval.
  • Your school, local or district fair did not conduct official SRC review of your project.
If you meet either of the above listed conditions, your completed ISEF forms as determined by ISEF Rules Wizard, must be submitted for pre-approval, before any experimentation can begin; construction, research, or testing is NOT permitted until your paperwork is approved. Incomplete forms will be rejected, thus delaying your project. Projects that fail to submit their pre-approval paperwork on time will not be eligible for SASEF or ISEF competition.
Once your paperwork is sumitted for pre-approval, our staff will review your project and inform you and your teacher of the outcome along with any additional steps that may be needed for pre-approval completion. Please note that you will need to upload all the required paperwork for your project at once, as determined by the ISEF Rules Wizard.

For questions please email:

Your project will need an IRB approval if your research involves human subjects, animals, or potentially dangerous microorganisms.

You can take the online ISEF Wizard to help determine what proper IRB approval forms your research project needs.

If your school does not have it’s own IRB Committee you can utilize SASEF’s committee. To let us know if you need additional help with IRB information, please contact

The “Adult Sponsor” for a SASEF project is the teacher or the parent as long as the project doesn’t get into specific compliance areas.

You will need a “Qualified Scientist”, who is someone that is working in that field of study, like a Vet, Doctor, Teacher with experience, or parent that is a scientist in that area, if your project requires an IRB approval. The Adult Sponsor in that circumstance needs to be someone trained in the area of science the research topic is on.

It is best to view the Display Guidelines for a better understanding of how to design your SASEF poster. Some tips from the SASEF Board of Directors on poster design include:

  • The poster is meant to serve as a “cheat sheet”. It should help you to be able to explain your project in an orderly fashion, and follow what you have done (Think of it like a PowerPoint to help talk about your project)
  • The poster needs to have images (not of yourself or people’s faces)
  • The poster needs to have graphs that are large enough and have titles and axes identified and a legend.
  • Make sure you have references/bibliography
  • Your poster does not need to contain everything that you put in the report that sits in front of the poster – Don’t make the poster and the report the exact same!
  • The project Results are the most important part to put on the poster followed by the Methods section.
  • Do not put candy, food, or anything live, or was once alive, on your poster or as part of their display.

Research Project Reports are created to sit in front of the poster and are for judges to view to get a better understanding of the student’s research in full.

In the Junior Division it is very much the extended abstract that includes: abstract, hypothesis, objectives, procedure, results, and conclusions (like a lab report). SASEF has created a Junior Division Research Plan to assist with the creation of students’ project reports.

In the Senior Division you need to download the ISEF form Research Plan/Project Summary. This will give a breakdown of what is needed on the Senior Division level in the student’s Project Report.

It is important to note, the journal that they are putting with their work doesn’t have to be perfect. It is preferred they start their report day one on their research and include anything that can help judges follow along with their project. For example, if their project includes a survey, include a sample of the survey in the project report.

Photos of things they could not bring into the fair are also important to include in the project report. For example, photos of time lapse of progression, like plants wilting during an experiment that went on several weeks.

SASEF judges are very supportive and are there to assist student’s in their research ideas, they are not there to intimidate the students. The judges want to hear the story of why the student is interested in the research project they chose. SASEF judges love to see passion!

Examples of questions that may be asked include:

  • “Now you’ve done this, what would you do differently next time?”
  • “How would you expand on this project?”
  • “How did you like the project?”
  • “How did you come up with this project?”

A very popular question will be “Tell me about your project?” in which students should be able to answer in a concise manner an explanation of their scientific method, how they came up with their project, and their conclusions.

Students dress should be neat and clean, but there is not “right” outfit. We ask that students come ready to present and putting their best foot forward, but that does not mean you must wear a suit or dress. You can wear nice jeans and a nice top.

While you wait to be judged, students will be provided a chair to sit in. It is important to remember that once judges are approaching your for your interview, you stand and greet them.

Remember, nothing dresses a student up more than a smile! If a student is enthusiastic about their project, then it doesn’t matter what they have on.

The top 2 Senior Division winners and their teachers will qualify to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) held May 10 – 15 in Anaheim, California. The SASEF winners and their teachers will receive an expense-paid trip to the international competition to compete among the top STEM students across the world.

SASEF awards scholarship prizes to the top 6 places in both the Junior (middle school) and Senior (high school) divisions. The top two Senior Division champions receive a scholarship award, and an all-expense-paid trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) for themselves and their teacher.

SASEF Awards:

SASEF Senior Grand Champion $1,000
SASEF Senior Champion $750
SASEF Sr. 3rd place winners $250
SASEF Junior Grand Champion $200
SASEF Sr. 4th place winners $125
SASEF Junior Champion $100
SASEF 3rd place winners $75
SASEF Sr. 5th place winners $75
SASEF 4th place winners $50
SASEF 5th place winners $30
SASEF Juniors Certificate of Excellence $25
SASEF Senior Certificate of Excellence $25

Special Awards

Additional Special Awards are granted through local community partners and are awarded based on the organization’s specification. Awards range from $50 – $500.

Previous Special Awards:

TN Science Teachers Association
Strata G
Society for Women Engineers
Knox Co Superintendent’s Award
Jewelry TV Network
International Society of Automation
Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Biology Teacher Award
American Meteorological Society
American Institute of Chem Engineers
American Chem Society

More than 600 individual and team awards are presented every year at the ISEF. Each entry is judged at least four times with category awards given in first, second, third and fourth place. Awards are $3,000, $1,500, $1,000 and $500 respectively in each of the 22 categories. The top winner of the ISEF receives the Gordon Moore Award, and $75,000, with the next top two winners each receiving a $50,000 award. Additional awards worth approximately $4 million are provided through the ISEF Special Awards program, and include tuition scholarships, summer internships, scientific field trips, and laboratory equipment. They are provided by and about 70 other corporate, professional, and government sponsors annually.

  • Practicing interviews with your students is very important. It is beneficial for students to present their projects to diverse audiences that will ask different questions about their research that may be asked of them by the judges (it’s also a fun classroom activity for students to ask each other questions about their research!)
  • Teachers that set up a schedule with deadlines (ex. Deadlines for topics, research background, procedures) are able to track their students progress better. A timeline with deadlines is important and allows you to have the opportunity to steer students along the way versus getting to the end of their research and finding there is something you would have fixed in their procedures.
  • The procedure portion is really important for you to review – this is often where students need assistance.
  • Helping students create a data collection method is helpful – a lot of times students don’t know how to create the right chart or graph to represent their data.
  • Data collection: SASEF often sees super small sample sizes. An easy adjustment to a research project is to increase sample sizes.
  • Encourage students to look at something they’re interested in – don’t just go to a website and find something to do.
  • Encourage student to look at all the SASEF categories to get a better understanding of all the topics they could do a project on.


For questions, please email