Judge guidance on defense questions

Judges are given 6 minutes to ask questions for the students to defend their research.  This is a vital opportunity to distinguish between an authentic and independent project, one that was more dependent on a lab or mentor, or one that was just handed to them.  We at AJAS would like to reward independence and creativity if students are close in rank.  In questioning, keep in mind, that the more accurate answers are, the more authentic the project likely is.  To save time and get more questions in, instruct the student to move their presentation to a format that allows them to see many slides like slide sorter.  Also, be aware that this may be their first or second real defense.  Help them out to keep them from self-destructing, but don’t help them answer the question.

Suggested but not required:

  1. If the student ran out of time, ask them what was that final point they were trying to say.
  2. In the student’s background research, ask them a basic question about that research that they may have mentioned or implied. If appropriate, ask them about that research and how it might relate to something other than their project.
  3. In the presentation, were some units used and discussed. Ask the student what those units mean.
  4. Engineering/Science project – If engineering, how did they alter their designs or procedures from one revision to the next. If science, have them elaborate on how they established the procedures they were going to use.
  5. What mistakes and problems had to be worked through? Did they go through design iterations of have to go back and redo anything?  What was something that limited their research?
  6. Were calculations used? Does the presenter understand the calculations?
  7. If statistics were used, like T test or variability, ask the presenter what those mean. If appropriate ask them why they did not use it.
  8. If technology was used, ask the presenter how that technology works.
  9. If chemical procedures were used, ask the presenter why certain chemicals are part of the procedure – what function do they serve in the measurement.
  10. If the student used a table or graph and didn’t sufficiently explain it, ask them to go to it and explain labels.
  11. In the student’s experimental design, were there other variables that may have applied or could have been tested, control variables that they didn’t mention, experimental error that still exists in their project or have them communicate errors that they had to fix.
  12. If they have not already, ask the student to elaborate on how the project will be expanded in the future and possible applications. Get them to defend or redefend the impact.
  13. Students should have acknowledged mentors. Have them revisit what those mentors helped them do in their project.  If the topic comes up, have them separate what the mentors research is like and how their research is different.