2020 - 2021 Middle and High School Categories

NWSE reserves the right to divide or combine categories based upon the number of entrants. An effort will be made to notify students affected by category modifications, but such notification may not be possible due to time constraints. Categories may be entered by individuals or a small team (2 to 3 students.) There is no specific category for small teams.  

Special rule for small team projects
Each team should appoint a team leader; however, each member should be fully involved, familiar with all aspects of the project, and able to act as a spokesperson. The team must jointly submit one abstract and one research plan that specifically outlines each member's responsibilities. All team member names must appear on the abstract and on each form.

The International Science and Engineering Fair continues to update their categories for use at ISEF. The Northwest Science Expo System is not matching all 21 categories, but this list may be useful for determining which category your high school project should enter under as they have more detailed descriptions.

category description
Animal Science Study of animals and animal life, including the study of the structure, physiology, development, and classification of animals. Incudes ecology, physiology, development, animal husbandry, classification, animal behavior.
Behavioral & Social Science The science or study of the thought processes and behavior of humans and other animals in their interactions with each other and the environment studied through observational and experimental methods.
Biochemistry The study of the chemical substances and vital processes occurring in living organisms, the processes by which these substances enter into, or are formed in, cells and organisms and react with each other and the internal environment.
Cellular & Molecular Biology The study of the structure, formation, functions, and interactions of cells. Genetic manipulation. 
Chemistry The science of the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially of atomic and molecular systems.
Computer Science & Robotics The use of software and/or methodologies to demonstrate, analyze, simulate or compute. All science and engineering in which the use of machine intelligence is paramount to reducing the reliance on human intervention.
Energy & Environmental Engineering

All science and engineering in which the management, refinement and/or conservation of energy is the goal.

The development of processes and infrastructure for the supply of water, the disposal of waste, and the control of pollution of all kinds. Includes bioremediation and biofuels.

Engineering: Bio-engineering & Materials The biological or medical application of engineering principles or engineering equipment to basic biological science problems. The development and study of novel characteristics and uses of natural and man-made materials that add to their performance.
Engineering: Electrical & Mechanical Electrical Systems in which information is conveyed via signals and waveforms for purposes of enhancing communications, control and/or sensing. All science and engineering in which there is movement. The movement can be by the apparatus or the movement can affect the apparatus. 
Environmental & Earth Sciences The analysis of existing conditions of the environment and their effect on organisms/systems.  Includes effects of natural products on biological processes. Study of structure and behavior of the earth and its components.
Mathematics The study of the measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities and sets, using numbers and symbols. The deductive study of numbers, geometry, and various abstract constructs, or structures. Mathematics is very broadly divided into foundations, algebra, analysis, geometry, and applied mathematics, which includes theoretical computer science.
Medicine & Health Sciences Biomedical and public health research that aims to improve the health of individuals and the community by translating findings into diagnostic tools, medicines, procedures, policies and education.
Microbiology The study of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, prokaryotes, and simple eukaryotes and of antibiotic substances.
Physics & Astronomy The science of matter and energy and of interactions between the two. The study of anything in the universe beyond the Earth.
Plant Science Plant development, physiology, evolution, ecology, photosynthesis, and growth.


Northwest Science Expo Middle School Categories: Fair director may swap types of projects into other categories or split categories to balance numbers for judges.

Animal Science
Animal Husbandry
Behavior of animals
Behavioral and Social Sciences
Human behavior
Social and community relationships-
public opinion surveys

physical chemistry
organic chemistry
inorganic chemistry

Computer Science and Robotics
Study and development of computer software and hardware and associated logical devices. 
Programming a robot.

Consumer Products Testing
Comparison of product quality, effectiveness, usefulness, economy, cost, smell, environmental friendliness, etc.
Earth and Weather Science 
Water Desalination
Planetary science

Alternative fuels
Fossil fuel energy
Energy efficiency 
Renewable:solar, wind, water, microbial, biofuel

Transportation/vehicle development
Aerospace and aeronautical engineering
Structural designs 
Materials & Materials testing

Environmental Science
Study of pollution (air, water, and land) sources and their control
Changes over time
Food Science
Food mold-following safety rules
Baking projects
yogurt, yeast and kombucha


Development of formal logical systems or various numerical and algebraic computations, and the application of these principles
Complex analysis 

Medicine and Health
Study of diseases and health of humans 
human genetics-fingerprints
speech and hearing
The science of matter and energy and the interactions between the two.
Plant Science 
Related to plant growth, health or death
Plant Physiology

A student may only have one project.

If you have questions about your category selection please contact Stephanie Jones at nwse [at] pdx [dot] edu.

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