Main content

National Finalist Oral Presentation, Printed Poster and Q&A Guidelines

National finalists are required to attend and participate in ALL events during the National Finals weekend. Events will include but are not limited to:

  • A 12-minute oral presentation about the research and findings.
  • A private, 12-min question-and-answer sessions with the judges.
  • An exhibition of student's printed poster, which must follow the specifications outlined below
  • If you do not atten the National Finals event, you will forfeit your status as a National Finalist.

Finalists are evaluated on these items, in addition to the Research Report and all Additional Required Materials.

Judges expect to hear concise presentations and responses to their questions during the question-and-answer session. Each student must also be able to describe further aspects of your project, including the fundamental science behind what you have done. All aspects of the projects and presentations inform the final decisions of the judges.

All results and data presented in the poster, oral presentation, and Q&A session must be documented in the original Research Report. Research completed after the original submission may not be presented in the presentation slides, included in the National Finals poster, or presented as part of the oral presentation. Corrections are permitted (e.g., fixing a typo from the report) as long as the correction does not reflect new data or findings.

Printed Poster

Your printed poster is an essential part of the National level of the Competition. You will not formally present your poster to the judges. Posters will be judged in a private session with national judges.

A poster is primarily a visual medium. It is preferable to utilize headlines, pictures, and graphs rather than long segments of text.

  • Research Project title MUST match the title submitted at registration.
  • Summarize the important points of your research by combining headlines and short textual explanations with illustrative pictures, graphs, and tables.
  • Do not simply rewrite your Research Report on a poster. Convey the main points of your project in a way that is interesting and informative.
  • All results and data presented in the poster must be in the original Research Report. Research completed after the original submission may not be included in the poster. Corrections are permitted (e.g., fixing a typo from the report or poster) as long as the correction does not reflect new data or findings.
  • Viewers should walk away with an understanding of your work and the feeling that they learned something.

Poster Display

You will be provided a display unit to present your poster, but you will be required to bring your printed poster with you to Nationals.

  • The display unit is one meter tall and two meters wide, with three panels. The center panel is slightly less than one meter wide; the two-hinged wings are each one half meter wide.
  • You may use paper, poster board, foam-board, cardboard, or any similar material to create your poster.
  • The unit is covered with black Velcro loop fabric. Your poster will be fastened to the display unit with Velcro tape. Velcro will be provided during set-up.
  • The poster must not expand over the edges of the display unit. Posters that are larger than the display unit will be required to reduce the size (e.g., trim the edges of the poster) at the Competition.
  • You may not use pins, tape, glue, staples, or tacks to fasten your poster to the unit.
  • The poster display is set up on a skirted table. Only the poster may be exhibited. No other items are allowed on the table as part of your presentation. Props, models or other items are not allowed.
  • You may print your Regional Poster using the printing specifications below and bring it to the National Competition. Please be sure your poster meets the format and design requirements also listed below.
  • Discovery Education staff will be available to answer questions about your poster.

Printing Specifications

In order to print your digital poster for Nationals:

  • Provide a PDF to a printing facility (FedEx Kinkos, etc)
  • Ensure the printer will be applying the printouts to a three-panel poster board.

Poster Format

This is the standard format of a scientific poster; modify it to fit your own content.

  1. Title: Research Report title as it was submitted at registration.
  2. Your Name: Provide your name as it appears on your Research Report.
  3. Introduction: State the problem with an optional short explanation (one to three sentences) and your hypothesis. You may include a short explanation of the importance of the problem.
  4. Materials and methods: Summarize your methods and procedures.
  5. Results: Summarize the data through headlines, illustrative graphs, and pictures. Be selective; display only those results that illustrate your main findings.
  6. Discussion and conclusion: Summarize the key conclusions from the data and relate the data back to the original problem and hypothesis.
  7. Literature and acknowledgments: List references for all sources cited, and acknowledgments of all individuals, departments, programs, and funding resources that contributed to the project.

Poster Design

There is no specific format for the design of the poster. Be creative and allow the content of your research to be reflected in your poster. Be innovative and combine text with graphics to convey the major points of the Research Project quickly and effectively.

Keep it simple: Make full use of the space but do not crowd the information, since it makes the poster appear messy.

Use colors sparingly and with taste: Colors should be used to emphasize, differentiate, and add interest.

Font types: All text should be legible from a distance of three meters.

  • Use a minimum font size for the text of 14.
  • Titles should be in a larger font than the other text.
  • Emphasize important points through layout and the use of bold and italic fonts.

It is important that your poster is easy to read. Avoid:

  • Fonts in light colors, such as yellow
  • More than three font styles
  • Words entirely in capital letters

Equations: Keep equations to a minimum; use them only if they are necessary for an overall understanding of your project.

Pictures and Graphs: When possible, use pictures and graphs to tell your story. Use text sparingly. Choose graph types appropriate for the information you are displaying. All diagrams and drawings should be completely labeled. All elements should be easy to view from a distance of three meters.

Consistency: Maintain a consistent style of presentation to aid the viewer.

Arrangement of components: Arrange the sections to tell the story of your project. Your layout should encourage a viewer's eye to move through the display in order. You may wish to number each part of the poster to guide the viewer.

Review: Check carefully for errors in spelling, legibility, and consistency in style.

Oral Presentation

The presentation is open to the public. Your presentation will be timed and can be no longer than 12 minutes. You will be given a signal after 11 minutes, so you can conclude your presentation in the remaining minute. You are encouraged to time your presentation prior to the competition and ensure that it is less than 12 minutes. No materials may be distributed during the oral presentation. All team members should participate in the oral presentation.

Your presentation should primarily focus on the overall importance of the research, but should also include enough detail to engage the interest of the more knowledgeable audience members. You are presenting to a panel of judges who have read your Research Report and reviewed the references you cited. The audience may also include individuals who are unfamiliar with scientific research.

Your presentation should include:

  • A clear statement of the problem and its importance.
  • A summary of the key elements of your research and your key findings.

Your presentation should answer:

  • What is the most important thing about this research?
  • Is something about this research novel or of substantial significance?

All claims of novelty and/or substantial significance must be documented. If you choose to use superlatives such as “never before discovered,” “state of the art,” “best study to date,” “new and novel idea,” and similar superlatives, be prepared to provide extensive detail to support these statements. Documentation may be requested at any time (including after the Competition, after winners have been selected, and after awards have been provided) including, but not limited to computer source code, software, lab journals, cited references, and/or underlying mathematical formulas, to support the research submission and any unsubstantiated claims.

This is also the time in which you acknowledge those mentors and others who have assisted and inspired you in this research.

Presentation Software

Almost all scientific presentations employ visuals. A well-thought-out graphical presentation helps you communicate more clearly with the audience. The preferred software is Microsoft PowerPoint. If you choose to use software other than PowerPoint, (e.g., Beamer), you must convert it to a file that will run on a PC (e.g., PDF). MAC-based formats will not be supported and additional software will not be provided.

All information you wish to include in your 12-minute oral presentation must be contained within the PowerPoint or the format in which you are presenting. You may not include links to display external information from websites, and you will not have internet access during the presentation. You may, however, show video clips as long as they are embedded within your presentation. Additional instructions will be provided to National Finalists.

Ensure that your presentation is easy to read:

  • Use thick, block type for visuals; avoid italic, script, and thin letters.
  • Use a combination of capitals and lowercase; avoid only capitals.
  • Use only a few colors; avoid too many colors or light colors, such as yellow.
  • List references on the same slide with the cited information. All other references can be listed at the end of the presentation.

Practice Session

The day before your formal presentation to the judges, you will be assigned a time to practice your presentation. During the practice, a Discovery Education staff member will be available to assist and time your presentation. Be sure to stay within the 12-minute limit.

Your visual presentation (e.g. PowerPoint slides) must be finalized prior to your practice session. No changes to your visual presentation will be allowed after this time.

You are required to bring one printed copy of your visual presentation and a USB/flash drive with your final visual presentation. A Discovery Education staff member will collect these the morning of your practice session. Please label your USB/flash drive with your first and last name. Discovery Education is not responsible for returning these devices.

Name the file you save to the USB as follows: "Last Name, First Name – Team or Individual." A university AV person will load your presentation from your USB onto the laptop that will be used during your formal presentation.

Presentation Protocol

There are a few rules to follow regarding the presentations.

  • All students must observe all of the presentations during the weekend.
  • The presentation room doors will be closed during each individual student or team presentation. No one will be allowed to enter or leave during this time.
  • Cameras, video equipment, or other recording devices will not be allowed in the presentation rooms at any time.
  • Extend courtesy by turning off your cell phones and scheduling rest room visits during breaks.

Q&A Session

Immediately following the oral presentation, you will be guided to a room with approximately 10-12 judges for a private Q&A session. The Q&A session is in a separate and private room with only you and the judges.

The Q&A session will give you the opportunity to answer any questions that the judges may have about your Research Report and the fundamental science behind what you have done. The judges will ask questions about the background of the project, the specific work that you did, your interpretation of the data, your conclusions, possible future directions, and other scientific details. Teams will also be asked about how each member contributed and how each role is appropriate to the nature of the study. Students will be asked if they will pursue a patent for their product. All information obtained during the Q&A session will only be used for determining the merits of the submission.

Notes are not allowed in the Q&A session, but the judges will have a copy of your Research Project and a copy of your visual presentation for reference. A flipchart or whiteboard will be available to you in the Q&A room.

The Q&A session may last up to 12 minutes at the National Competition.

After your turn is complete, you will return to the presentation room to listen to the remaining oral presentations.

No electronic devices will be allowed in the Q&A session.

Tertiary content


2017 Siemens Competition registration is now closed.

Academic Integrity

Competitors must demonstrate academic integrity. Read our policy about plagiarism and other violations.

Video Highlights

Siemens shieldView the 2016 Siemens Competition National Winners at the national competition in Washington, D.C. Click to view the list of winners. View National Finalist "Road to Regionals"