Guidelines

FSCC EventFaulkner State Community College Computer Science Fair Guidelines
(Note: FSCC Guidelines and Competition Categories are in italics.)

General Rules

Students must be registered by an adult representative (with phone and email contact information) to compete in both individual and group events according to their grade levels. Any group entry must compete at the (grade) level of the oldest member of the group. Groups are made up of two but not more than four members.

Projects for each category must be unique and cannot be entered in more than one category.

A hardware-robotics project must be controlled through instructions received from a computer, and those instructions must have been created or written and input by the student. However such a computer “program” cannot also be entered in the programming category because it is designed to control the hardware, which could not function without it. The only exception is that a large, multifunctional project with several elements, each of which could stand alone, can be entered in the respective categories. Its parts must be titled differently as well as with the common name to indicate the multiple functions and common thread.

Students may enter more than one category, but may have only one project per category. However, the same student may enter an individual project and be part of a group project within a single category, providing the projects are different either in content or composition. There is no limit to the number of categories a student may enter. Experience shows, however, that the more categories entered, the lower the quality of work. It is encouraged for students and teachers to select only their best work.

A maximum of only 6 entries per category by individuals and groups (up to 3 individual and up to 3 group projects) for each competition level (1-5) from a school may be entered, except for the literacy test, which has unlimited entries. For example, a high school may enter 3 individual student projects in multimedia in level 4 (grades 9 and 10) and 3 in multimedia group projects for level 4. The same school can also enter 6 projects (3 individual plus 3 group) in each level for general applications, web page, video production, programming, and hardware-robotics for a maximum total of 36 projects in level 4. The number of students participating in the information technology (computer literacy) test is not limited at the regional fairs. A student may take the written test of computer technology knowledge without entering any other category. Team programming is limited to a maximum of one team per school per level (levels III, IV, and V). These teams are further restricted to a minimum of two but not more than four students per team. Students whose schools are not participating in the fair may be registered by a parent or teacher, but must still list the school attended. Some students create projects on their own at home, sometimes with friends from different schools. This is allowable, but should be confirmed prior to registration with the regional fair director. Student projects created from classroom assignment or classroom themes or which have an obvious instructional or educational content will fare better than those created “just for fun”.

Schools are strongly encouraged to hold school-based fairs and select only their best, most representative work. Large numbers of projects in categories take an enormous amount of time to judge and may cause delays in processing awards. It should not be the intent of a school to dominate a category simply to win. Doing so may result in future limitations on the numbers of students who can participate.

Home schooled students are eligible to compete. Students who are home-schooled but who attend an education facility for common activities should register under the name of that educational facility and follow general school guidelines. Students who are completely home schooled should be registered by a parent/teacher. Home-schooled students who wish to participate in the Team Programming competition must form teams of two to four students with friends or with students from other schools, all of whom are expected to be active participants in the competition. Home-schooled students may also participate in other group projects with students from schools, providing that they have contributed to the project. These students should be registered separately from the school and by a parent or non-school based adult sponsor.

Categories

  1. Literacy
  2. General Applications – Individual and Group
  3. Multimedia – Individual and Group
  4. Hardware/Robotics
  5. Web Page Creation
  6. Video Production – Individual and Group
  7. Computer Programming – Individual and Group
  8. Team Programming – Groups

Registration and Fees

Registration forms are to be returned by the deadline date. Currently, Faulkner State charges no registration fees for any participant.

Set Up at the Fairs

All equipment needed, such as computers, monitors, cables, VCRs, TVs, laser discs, CD-ROMs, multi-outlet power strips, extension cords, etc. must be furnished by the contestants. In addition, all software used in the project must be loaded for demonstration by the contestants. It is STRONGLY suggested that back-up, executable copies of the completed projects be brought. You do not need to bring peripheral devices such as printers, scanners, or cameras unless it helps in your presentation to the judges. However, students must be able to describe how these devices were used if asked by judges. Students and schools are responsible for the safety and security of their equipment and software, not Faulkner State College. Students must be able to bring in their own equipment and set it up on tables furnished by the fair host. Only one electrical outlet will be provided per computer set-up. Please bring extension cords and multi-outlet power strips as needed.

All students must be able to find their project(s) on their computers, bring them up, and run them for judges at the time of competition. If needed, students must be able to start their computers from a “cold boot-up” or restart scenario. If there is a serious hardware problem beyond normal expectations, a responsible adult may be called to the judging floor to try to remedy it.

While the State Fair prohibits storyboards and notebooks, these are optional in the South West and South East Region (they just make a good presentation for the judges and help the student articulate his or her project better).

General Applications: Hardcopy (print, etc.) of the final product or output and hardcopy of the output with hidden codes, formulas, etc. revealed (as applicable). Documentation (bibliography) of source material.

Multimedia: Storyboard, note cards, or other planning process (sequencing of project development). Documentation (bibliography) of source material. A storyboard is a design and layout process, not just a (tri-fold) project board.

Web Page Creations: Must have hardcopies of WebPages source coding, site/page plans, etc., hard copies (printouts) of web pages with graphics down through three levels of sublinks, whether these links are from local (hard disk) sources or hyperlinks from outside source. Documentation (bibliography) of source material.

Video Production: Projects must have hardcopies of scripts or storyboard planning, job descriptions of all participants. Documentation (bibliography) of source material. State whether this presentation is being shown in its entirety, was part of a larger production or a broadcast or if it is a short commercial.

Hardware – Robotics: Hardcopies of the student written instructions or source code of computer interaction and schematics of hardware design. Documentation (bibliography) of source material if applicable. If using parts from a kit, list the manufacturer/s.

Computer Project Programming: Name(s) of software/compiler/language used. Hardcopies of the source code and algorithms, hardcopies of any printed or screen generated output from the program and a narrative description of the program with purpose, organization chart, 5-step plan, flow chart, etc. Documentation (bibliography) of source material if applicable.

Judging

Special rubrics for each category will be used. However, all judges will consider the following items in determining the rating for an entry:

  • Was the technology used appropriately?
  • Did the student(s) demonstrate knowledge of the technology as it relates to the project appropriate for the grade level of the student(s)?
  • Is the entry original, creative, and imaginative in subject and implementation?
  • Overall value and purpose of the project. More points will be given for those projects that demonstrate an academic or business purpose. Projects which have been created for a class assignment should be identified as such.
  • Complexity of the project with respect to the technology used and the grade level of the student(s).
  • Clarity of the presentation.
  • Did the student understand and pay attention to the use of copyrighted material? Did the student document the source material properly?

At the time of the judging, students will be required to:

  1. Present the project notebook to the judge.
  2. Use the program or applications software to demonstrate a previously prepared file.
  3. Demonstrate their understanding of the software as it relates to the project.
  4. Explain the various aspects of the creation of the project.
  5. Move through the program demonstrating the project.
  6. Defend their choice of software for the project.
  7. Answer judges’ questions about the project.

Students should be prepared to explain and demonstrate the highlights of their project in no more than 15 minutes.

Judges will be selected at the fair. Any parent or sponsor who wishes to be a judge is encouraged to judge. Parents or sponsors who are judges will be selected to judge in other competitions that their children/students are not participating in to ensure impartiality. Judges decisions will be final.

COMPETITION CATEGORIES

Literacy

Written exams will be given on-site for each of the five grade levels. The exams will have 50 multiple choice questions. Each question will have four responses but only one correct answer. A few (general/non-language-specific) programming questions will be on the Level III, IV, and V exams only.

Questions will be both vocabulary and concept oriented. They will come from the following topic areas:

  1. History of computers
  2. Parts of the computer and peripheral computer devices
  3. Copyright and copyrights, ethics and plagiarism
  4. Uses and limitations of computers
  5. General uses of common computer applications software
  6. New and emerging technologies
  7. The Internet and World Wide Web
  8. Social implications of computers
  9. Networking (Levels IV and V only)

Those students with the six highest scores from the literacy test will be called and scheduled for an oral interview by the judges. From this six, the places first through third and three honorable mentions will be decided.

An interview (dealing with questions from items 6, 7, and/or 8 above) may be used as a tiebreaker if more than two students are tied for the same position. Use of tiebreakers is at the discretion of the fair directors. Questions for topic areas 1-7 will come from information generally available in textbooks and reliable sources on the Internet. The series of “Blank… For Dummies” books that are widely available from libraries and bookstores are good sources for similar information. Also suitable are “Computing Dictionary, the Illustrated Book of Terms and Technologies” by the publishers of PC Novice and “The Osborne Computer Dictionary for Beginners“. General computer magazines and television programs have discussed some of the social implications of computers.

General Applications

Entries shall be developed from various non-multimedia application programs. Projects using general presentation software that does not include sound or video capabilities should be entered here. Many general applications projects, although presented on-screen and allowing an attached “sound”, may be printed so that the final printed product does not lose any of the intrinsic integrity of the on-screen project. One example of this is StoryBook Weaver. However, products such as PowerPoint, which now permit multimedia, must be entered under multimedia category unless those features are not used by the student. A complete print-out of each “slide” must be included in the student’s notebook if this option is chosen and the final product must be completely linear or book-like in its presentation.

Research projects that use applications such as spreadsheets, word processing, desktop publishing, and/or databases can be entered in General Applications. Projects using information obtained from e-mail, Internet searches, and other electronic media (on-line, laser disc, or CD resources) can be entered in General Applications, also, providing that the end product is for print or on-screen presentation not using other multimedia effects.

Students must demonstrate knowledge and use of the applications software that they have used. They must have the software loaded that was used to create their project and a computer on which to run it the day of the fair. Students will present their notebooks of summary information to the judges. If a program runs from a CD-ROM, it must be available at the fair. For security purposes, however, a student may elect to bring a copy of such software rather than the original.

Projects in this category may use applications software such as word processing, spread sheets, databases, desktop publishing or presentation/story creators. Graphics design and photography oriented software, which, after digital manipulation, may produce a final printed product, whether two or three dimensional in appearance, should also be submitted in this category. Any of these applications may be combined and may also use information and images from other input devices such as digital cameras and scanners. Examples of this software may include: paint, illustration and photo scanning/manipulating, sketching and computer-aided design products so long as a final printed product is possible. The quality of the final product often depends upon the quality of the printer. Students may not have access to print devices that will give the same performance as the on-screen project. The defining principle here is that a printed product is possible or desired as the final outcome of the project.

Art work or graphic designs may be included from within the software itself or obtained from external sources including the Internet or clip-art software. Art that has been created digitally should be entered in General Applications.

Photographs may be entered in General Applications provided that they have been digitally altered by computer-based software. The alteration process must be a necessary part of the project, and the output must be intended for print or visual (non-motion) effects on-screen. Students should be prepared to describe and demonstrate this process to the judges. The process and end results must be documented in the project notebook.

The final output from this category may be on-screen or on paper, even if more than one applications software package or element was used in creating the project. However, if sound (such as speech or music or long-playing sound) or motion (animation/video) is incorporated, the final project should be entered under the Multimedia, Web Page Creation, or Video Production categories, as appropriate. When several still pictures are brought together to create a video, such as a “quick-time” movie, the result belongs in multimedia, unless it is used in a video or web page category project.

Newsletters, newspapers, and yearbooks are eligible projects; however, they must fit the appropriate entry category and cannot have more than four people who worked on the entry. For example, an electronic yearbook may need to be entered under the Multimedia category if it imbeds voice, or music, or video. However, if it is distributed by VHS tape for viewing as a true film or video on television then it should be entered under Video Production. A yearbook that is distributed on disc or CD-ROM, but which does not meet the multimedia criterion of additional sound or motion, may be entered in the General Applications category.

Multimedia Projects

These projects may be linear or nonlinear in layout and may be interactive or directed by the student presenter(s). Multimedia is defined as a presentation combining sound and/or motion with text. Sound may include voice, music, or natural or man-made sounds and effects that are part of software, found on the Internet, or created and imported by the student. Videos may be created from video cameras or prerecorded tapes, imported from other sources, or taken from still images and manipulated into moving sequences by other programs. (Completely video projects, however, belong in their own category.) Graphics may be images from commercial software, photographs, created by the student with software or scanned in and may include line drawing, photos, paintings, etc. Digital animation also belongs in this category.

Multimedia projects are computer-based reports or creative presentations. Some examples of suitable software are Astound, Kid Pix, KidWorks Deluxe, Dreamweaver, HyperStudio, Power Point, Word Perfect Presentation, Claris Works, etc. Again, a notebook of information must be presented to the judges.

The exception to the “multi”-media element is music. Projects that deal solely with sound or music and in which the final product may be produced on an audio tape or compact disc should be entered under multimedia. Music projects are those in which sound or music is recorded, mixed, synthesized, and reproduced for a final aural output; although producing the tape is not a current requirement. The project may use single or multiple devices. Projects may also be combined with other features such as lights, laser light, or digital on-screen effects.

Hardware – Robotics

Projects may be constructed from kits or published schematic drawings, modified from other devices to create new applications, or constructed from the students’ own concepts and designs. The projects must have some obvious relationship to the computer and be controlled through student programming or providing instructions via the software that comes with the kit or some other software. Students may build computerized devices provided that the reason for the design shows a direct instructional or commercial usage. Such projects must have a notebook as described above.

All entries must be a working and functional piece of electronics. Mechanical and motor driven devices entered must be controlled by computers (either hard-wired or remotely) that are programmed by students in order to be eligible. Students must be able to show they have written the programs to control such devices. Examples of commercially available kits are robotic “arms” or robot movers, Lego and K’Nex-style building kits, Capsella, and Technics style robotics kits.

Scientific laboratory measurement devices using a logic board or computer based technologies, unless constructed by the student, are not considered part of the A.C.T.E. Technology Fair competition.

Students will be required to demonstrate their project, explain how it works, what it does, and its purpose. Judging will be on the basis of the significance of the project, the quality of workmanship, demonstration of the project’s function and explanation of purpose. As in other categories, the use of notebooks that document the stages of design and development will be considered in the final evaluation. Copies of any programming or instructional “code” used to control the devices must be printed and available to judges for review as part of the notebook.

Web Page Creation

Web pages may be created for Internet posting, or for local area Intranets within confined settings, such as a local school network, a closed network, or a “members only” network. Web pages use hypertext and hypergraphics. There should be at least three separate pages that are hyperlinked together. At least three external links to “outside” information are also required. Because such external links might not be allowable within Intranets and cannot be “shown” without live Internet access, these links should be saved to the designer’s storage (disk, CD, Zip, hard drive) and may be referenced as internal files although they were created and maintained on the World Wide Web.

Information kiosks for schools or business, especially those using hypertext and hypergraphics and linking at least two computers fall into this category of Web Page Design. Hypertext with sound or motion used in a stand-alone presentation otherwise falls under the Multimedia category. A kiosk involves a computer (or series of computer devices) that is dedicated to bringing (regularly updated) information to the receiver. It may also collect information about the user and report it to others. A stand-alone kiosk (or a computer that is an end node on a network) that displays information but does not collect it may be entered in Multimedia if it meets the other definitions of a multimedia project.

The largest drawback to judging this category is the lack of live Internet access at the fair sites to demonstrate student projects that have external hyperlinks. Software such as Web Whacker or other saved file formats may collect sample interactive links within a local computer. Additional linked pages may be printed if there is not sufficient hard-drive space to store saved sublinks. A notebook with printed “screen shots” taken from interactive sessions and suitable written explanations of the project, its intent, and how it was created is also needed. The use of project boards alone for Web Pages is no longer adequate. All web pages must be demonstrated on a computer with their hyperlinks as described above.

Video Production

This is an evolving category. Entries must be student-created videos or student created broadcasts. Both digital and analog video productions are allowed, but all entries must use some form of computerized editing or mixing (sound/music, graphics, titles, etc.) for the final production. Final products cannot exceed 10 minutes total viewing time. Longer videos created for other purposes must be edited into a 10 minute version, but the full-length copy should also be brought. A 30 or 60 second “commercial” or promotional “spot” is also allowable, but will be judged with a unique rubric within this same category. Videos may be saved to CD or DVD formats, in addition to VHS or VHS-C, but appropriate players must be brought. Be sure to bring copies and not the only “original” production in the event of equipment failure!

A project belongs in the video production category if it is intended to be seen as a “movie” or video or broadcast. It must have the integrity to tell its story or information by itself. It must be capable of being saved and viewed on video-tape, DVD, or CD formats. If it is created so that it complements a larger multimedia project that has text, is incorporated in that project, and is meant to be viewed on a computer, then it should be entered in multimedia.

Productions using professional equipment such as Avid Cinema, Casablanca, etc. may be judged using additional guidelines from more low-tech products such as I-Movie and Dazzle. However, all video products will be grouped together for final tallies and decisions.

Students who create school broadcasts over open/closed circuit television may submit sample broadcasts that do not exceed 10 minutes in total viewing time. These productions also must have used some form of computerized editing or other computer-enhanced production that can be described to the judges. Again, broadcasting rubrics will include unique elements, but project scores will be included for final tallies in this overall category. Because a large number of students actually participate in school broadcasts, entries must be limited to actual production staff (up to 4 students excluding reporters or actors). Video reports that that have been created by up to 4 reporters and/or actors who may also have done their own camera work or editing may be entered also, but should be different from any other entries.

Students will be expected to describe their production crews and job responsibilities in creating the final video.

Computer Programming

Programming projects use recognized programming languages that generate code and which are self-executing. All parts and sections of the program must be the author’s own original design and coding. Some examples of acceptable program compilers/languages are the various versions of BASIC, C, C++, C#, Java, Node.js, RoR, Pascal, etc. Projects that have an educational or business purpose are highly desired.

Scripting languages alone, such as Java or HTML, or software such as Front Page, which generates HTML, do not qualify for programming projects under this category. They may be entered in General Applications, Multimedia, or Web Pages as appropriate to the resulting project. However, when scripts are combined with other recognized programming languages to create more elaborate final applications, they may be entered here with sufficient explanation and demonstration. (Contact your regional fair coordinator about this option. The fair director will determine if your project fits in programming or general applications.)

All programs must be created by the student(s) and not copied from other sources. They must be original work.

Programs must be presented with a documentation notebook which includes: hardcopies of the source code and algorithms, any printed or screen generated output from the program and a narrative description of the program with purpose, organization chart, 5-step plan, flow chart, etc.

The program must be identifiable in one of three project categories:

  1. Computer aided instruction or educational/learning games
  2. Business or commercial applications
  3. Personal applications which, with minor alteration, could be marketed for larger commercial appeal. The student would need to explain what design changes would need to be made to create a product for a wider audience.

Programs will be judged on originality and creativity, application of structured concepts, complexity, and overall value. Internal documentation includes remark statements or comments that identify sections of the program and may explain them, as appropriate. Correct spelling and grammar will be part of the judging process.

Students will be required to run their programs for the judges and to explain them orally. Students must bring their own computers and software with which to run the programs.

Team Programming

Those registering for this competition category will be contacted the day before the fair for the problems. (Personal Note: THIS CATEGORY HAS LITTLE TURNOUT. IF YOU WANT TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING A TROPHY, ENTER IN THIS CATEGORY)

This category is an off-site event in which teams of two to four students are given a series of problems, which they must solve during a two-hour competition time. Student sponsors will ensure integrity of this competition. Four problems of varying difficulty will be presented in writing to each team. The problems will be the same for each team at a single level (III, IV, or IV). The computer must calculate computational solutions to the problems. Any questions regarding interpretation of the problems must be submitted in writing to the judges who may choose to answer or reject the question. The decisions of the judges are final.

Students should use procedural or object languages that are capable of solving calculations and logical problems.

Each team will be awarded points for each problem solved correctly. Programs will also be judged on structure, design, and organization. The team with the highest number of points will be declared the first place winner, and subsequent places for second, third and honorable mention. In the event of a tie, two or more teams may be declared winners.

Competition will begin with a briefing session. The contest problems will be distributed to all teams at the same time. Competition time may be extended beyond the two-hour limit at the discretion of the judges only in the event of extenuating circumstances. At the end of the two hours, the disks will be turned in to be judged. The judges will use the team computers to check the solutions to the problems. Results will be announced at an awards ceremony.

Each team is required to bring the computer of their choice, appropriate operating system software, and programming (compiling) software with which to compete. Students must also bring two non-initialized disks, a power strip and extension cord to the test site. Teams may bring an additional computer only for emergency situations in the event that one computer does not function. However such computers must remain unplugged and may not be used unless permission is obtained from one of the judges. Teams may bring to the contest only the manuals for their computers. Any team using other resources including textbooks, published program listings, notes, or disks other than the blank ones submitted at the end, will be disqualified.

Contestants will not be permitted to communicate with their advisors or others except the contest officials and their teammates during the competition. No visitors will be allowed in the testing areas. Teams will be monitored on a random basis. Each team must be able to enter their programming code, execute the solutions to the problems and save them on the disks that will be submitted to the judges. Any team demonstrating unprofessional or unethical conduct will be disqualified following a decision of the judges and the fair coordinator.