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National Science Foundation

Judging Rounds


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


  • 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 scored by scientists, engineers and other professionals from NSF and from Popular Science.
  • Each entry is scored by a panel of judges.
  • All entries are scored anonymously.


  • The Top 10 entries from the semifinal round advance to this round.
  • Entries that reach the final round are eligible to win the People's Choice award via an online public vote.
  • Entries are 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.
  • 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 Experts' Choice in a category but may instead choose to award Honorable Mentions.
  • 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 in Popular Science and on popsci.com, and Popular Photography will recognize a winning photo. NSF will also publish the names of the winners on its website. Additionally, contest results will also be announced by a joint news release.