Having judged another year's science fair at ERHS, I'll share some thoughts for participants. I'm a little emboldened that maybe I know something since Elliott did well. On the other hand, maybe he did well in spite of me. Use your own judgement on what ideas to make use of, and how to make use of them.
One note: I never did very well in science fairs when I was growing up. You don't have to do well in science fairs to do well in science, even more true than you don't have to be good at math to do well in science. One failing in most of my projects: I was setting about learning what was already known, rather than striking out my own path. This is an excellent way to learn more, but not to get science fair points.
My base suggestion for any age: try to learn more about the universe, know what you did and why you did it. Maybe there are points in it, maybe not. But you'll definitely learn something, which is always good.
For science fairs, the major categories on the official judge's score sheet are: 'Scientific Thought', 'Creative Ability', 'Thoroughness/Clarity', and 'Exhibit Presentation'. They have some connection to usual professional proposal or paper review criteria (except, mostly, for exhibit presentation).
But we all, and it's interesting that it's all of us given that we come from different backgrounds, even judges in my rather small niche, think differently than this. We start more like journalists:
- What did you do?
- Why did you do it?
- Why did you do it this way?
- What did you learn?
- How would you do it differently? (given what you've learned)