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National Science Foundation

Judging Rounds


  • Qualifying entries (those that meet eligibility criteria and abide by all competition rules) are anonymously scored by a panel of judges including scientists, engineers, and other professionals from NSF.


  • Entries scored in the top half of each category in the preliminary round advance to the semifinal round. However, if more than 100 entries are received in a category, only the top 50 entries advance.
  • Entries are anonymously scored by a panel of judges including scientists, engineers and other professionals from NSF and from Popular Science.


  • The Top 10 entries from the semifinal round advance to this round.
  • Entries that reach the final round are also eligible to win the People’s Choice award via an online public vote.
  • Entries are anonymously scored by a panel of distinguished judges representing a variety of fields, including scientists, engineers, film producers, and graphic artists, who are chosen jointly by NSF and Popular Science.
  • Each entry is scored by all of the final round judges and those scores are averaged to determine the Experts’ Choice winner.
  • After all entries are scored anonymously, a final judges' meeting is held to choose Experts' Choice and Honorable Mention winners.
  • Judges, at their discretion, may choose not to award an Experts’ Choice winner in a category.
  • All judges’ decisions are final.

Winners will be notified individually before the public announcement of the official contest results. Contest results will be publicly announced by Popular Science on popsci.com in March, and NSF will also publish the names and entries of the winners on its website. Additionally, contest results will also be announced by a joint NSF - Popular Science news release.