Rules and Eligibility
For a full copy of the Rules, Eligibility Criteria, Judging Criteria, and Entry Requirements, please see the Participants’ Guide
- Entries must convey science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics principles.
- Entries can be produced by individuals or by teams.
- Entries are welcomed from anyone, including both amateurs and professionals (e.g., students, illustrators, scientists, engineers, research groups, institutions, the public, etc.).
- A maximum of one entry per individual or team is permitted.
- Entries can be submitted only once.
- Entries must not advertise or promote a commercial product visually or orally.
- Entries in the Interactive category must be free of charge and compatible with Microsoft Windows, iOS and/or the Android platform, and must provide any needed passwords required to access the entry.
- Entries and registrant information must be submitted in English. Videos narrated in a foreign language are acceptable if English subtitles are included.
A successful entry provides viewers with new scientific insight, is visually striking, and conveys the artist's skill and expertise in the chosen medium (e.g., photography). It conveys the artist's mastery of the fundamentals and principles of design and is executed with factual accuracy.
A successful entry communicates in a clear and understandable manner. It uses plain language, both written and spoken, in the entry itself and its accompanying text. An entry also must convey STEM principles.
Freshness and Originality
A successful entry has an individual voice, vitality and energy; creates a novel presentation or tells a compelling story; and portrays new scientific insight and methods.
- 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 all submitted entries (regardless of category/media type designated) in the preliminary round advance to the semifinal round.
- Entries are anonymously scored by a panel of judges including scientists, engineers and other professionals from NSF and from Popular Science.
- The top 25 entries from the semifinal round (regardless of category/media type designation) advance to this round.
- Entries that reach the final round are also eligible to win the Peoples' 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(s).
- Judges, at their discretion, may choose not to award an Experts’ Choice winner(s).
- 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 September, and NSF will also publish the names and entries of the winners on its website. Additionally, contest results will be announced by a joint NSF-Popular Science news release.
- A contest entry constitutes an agreement to adhere to the rules and stipulations set forth by the contest sponsors.
- Submissions may be made by either individuals or teams.
- A lead contact person must be designated for team submissions - the “Team Lead."
- Team leads must be U.S. citizens, nationals or permanent residents. Monetary prizes will be distributed to team leads.
- The order in which names are listed on the entry form and their spelling is how the names will appear on popsci.com and on the NSF website. No changes will be made after entry submission.
- All entrants must be at least 18 years of age.
- Any entrant or entry found to be in violation of any rule will be disqualified.
- Each entrant certifies, through submission to the contest, that the entry is his or her own original creative work and does not violate or infringe the creative work of others, as protected under copyright law.
- By entering the contest the entrant agrees to hold harmless, NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com for all legal and administrative claims, to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to his or her submission or its use.
- Entrants retain all copyright and equivalent rights but give NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com nonexclusive rights to use their names, likenesses, quotes and submissions for educational publicity and/or promotional purposes. This includes but is not limited to website display, social media, print materials and exhibits.
- NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com reserve the right to use semifinalist and finalist winners’ names and entries for educational publicity and/or promotional purposes, including on websites or in exhibitions of winning entries. It is understood that entries will be shared with reporters covering these awards and for promotion of the competition itself.
- NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com will not be responsible for any claims or complaints from third parties should these visualizations be published or exhibited.
- Winners that are published by Popular Science and popsci.com will be required to sign an agreement granting nonexclusive publication and web rights.
- Winners are responsible for all taxes or other fees connected with the prize received and/or travel paid for by the sponsoring organizations.
- NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com will not respond to any claims or inquiries regarding contest results.
- NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com have the final say on any point not outlined in the entry rules.
- Information requested on the entry form will be used to determine how and if the competition is meeting its goals, purposes and audience. Submission of this information is also necessary to contact entrants.
- Employees, contractors, officers or judges of the sponsoring organizations are not eligible to enter the competition.
- Finalist judges, either individually or as part of a team, are not eligible to enter the competition.
- If an insufficient number of qualified entries are received, the sponsoring organizations reserve the right to modify or cancel the competition prior to announcing winners.
- Should NSF, PopSci or a third party decide to bring winning contestants to Washington, D.C., or to any other location for promotional and other purposes, expenses paid by NSF will be within the limits set forth in law according to federal travel regulations. The travel will be restricted to participants based in the U.S. Foreign winners will have to designate a U.S.-based representative for that purpose.
- Should NSF, PopSci or a third party decide to bring contestants to Washington, D.C., or to any other location, NSF will fund travel for only one person per group or team entry if the entry wins. This person will be the contact person listed on the entry form. If this person is not available, he or she will designate a replacement from the team. If a single person wins multiple categories, he or she must represent all of the winning entries; designees are not permitted in this instance. Only persons listed on the original entry form may have their travel funded by NSF. All other persons accompanying the winner/group representative must arrange and fund their own travel and accommodations.
- All contestants agree that they, their heirs and estates shall hold harmless the United States, the employees of the federal government, and all employees of NSF, Popular Science and popsci.com for any and all injuries and/or claims arising from participation in this contest, to include that which may occur while traveling to or participating in contest activities.