Computer Project - Judging Information

Detailed information regarding how the project entries will be judged.

As this is the first year in a while that the Computer Project has had a Superintendent, I believe it is essential to set and reset expectations regarding how we will judge and provide feedback to our youths for 2020 and beyond. Relating directly to the 4-H mission, we are looking to provide real-life education opportunities such that they will have positive impacts on our communities and the world. Furthermore, we strive to be the premier, community-based program empowering youth to reach their full potential. Below are some thoughts on how we intend to operate the Computer Project to meet those criteria.

Our Roles with Our Youth

Most recently, I have coached several VEX Robotics teams at a local elementary school. The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation (REC) provides a useful framework that describes a “student-centered” approach to their program. It comprises of two significant points [paraphrased]:

  1. Student-Centered Learning - active involvement in learning opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills, under the guidance of adult mentorship
  2. Student-Centered Application - Students have ownership of the design, build, and delivery of their solution


I firmly believe these two core tenets align with 4-H’s mission to enable our students to be independent learners that drive to their unique solutions. While the final solution is a significant component, our youth’s journey to those solutions is equally important. It also asserts that they can operate autonomously, ask us as adult mentors for help as needed, but ultimately produce their work independently.

What does that mean for us as adult mentors? Here are some guiding questions as we help our 4-H’ers through their journey (again from REC):

  • Am I teaching or telling?
  • Am I encouraging my youth to express their voice before sharing my thoughts?
  • Are they asking for my assistance, or are they able to be independent?
  • Are they able to use the knowledge I am providing later in an independent fashion?

The short version: We should be helping our youths LEARN and UNDERSTAND through discovering relevant resources and demonstrating through examples. Our 4-H’ers then should be able to take that learning and understanding and apply it to their projects, documenting what they have learned and how they leveraged it.

Preparing Your Project

So that we continue to align with requirements for State Fair, we will be using the standard rubric provided by Purdue Extension. You can download it here:

Our Recommendations for Documenting and Presenting

The official requirements specify two deliverables for the Computer Project:

  • A Notebook or Portfolio with information related to how you assembled your project, with particular distinction paid towards having a detailed list of references
  • A “thumb drive*" containing the resources and artifacts that comprise your project. These artifacts include, but are not limited to, source code, compiled executables, mobile app files, PowerPoint presentations, documents, video files, output files generated, etc.

* NOTE: Due to the pandemic in 2020, we will be utilizing FairEntry to submit completely digital notebooks/portfolios and any other deliverables. It may be appropriate to also share files via syncing services like Google Drive or Dropbox. Depending on the type of project, it could also be necessary to post video content via YouTube and share private links for judging purposes More details will come later as we better understand how the Fair will function this year.

We strongly recommend that you build your portfolio virtually, using either a word processor, like Microsoft Word or presentation manager, like Microsoft PowerPoint to assemble all of the pages that would typically go into a traditional notebook/portfolio. (Google Docs or other platforms are also acceptable so long as we can read the final output [e.g., PDF file, published web site, etc.]) However, we do not want to discourage hand notes or other handwritten documents, as they generally are essential parts of the brainstorming process. We would request that you either scan or take pictures of those artifacts and insert them into your virtual notebook.

If you are doing something hardware-based (e.g., building a computer, a network, or something else fascinating), we will need you to take lots of pictures! Please take photos as a part of documenting your build as well as the final product. Capture as many images of your completed project, preferably in fully operational status. If you are trying to explain specific concepts around a piece of hardware, ensure to photograph it accurately, making the topic clear. Lastly, if it is appropriate, please attempt to video your final creation doing its job!

We do not want to be overly prescriptive, but providing a framework on how to format the notebooks will help us more accurately judge and improve the overall quality of the entries. A preferred format would entail:

  • COVER: a creative and descriptive cover page, if presented in a physical notebook, would capture someone’s attention
  • SECTION 1: the presentation portion of your content, if applicable
  • SECTION 2: appendices - can include, but not limited to:
    • any notes or brainstorming materials
    • drawings, designs, requirements collected
    • schematics, ERDs, class diagrams, etc.
    • special instructions for installing or testing any delivered code, executables, or apps
    • interview notes from anyone you talked with regarding the project
    • your thoughts and reactions to this project that wouldn’t be part of the presentation materials (lessons learned, what I’d do differently, etc.)
    • failures! We want to see how you failed building towards your success!
  • SECTION 3: listing of all references used throughout the implementation of your project

The notebook/portfolio provides three things to us 1) an attention-grabbing story/problem solved/new solution/etc. front cover; 2) a formal presentation of your solution; and 3) all of the behind-the-scenes efforts you put into devising your project. We want to see what you learned and how well you can present that to us!

How We Will Judge

Given the general categories in the rubric, here is how we will assess each Computer Project entry:

  • Effective Title, Menu, or Introduction (15%) - As previously stated, capturing our attention is essential. Having a well-designed title page that draws us into your solution and your dedication to it will net higher scores.
  • Suitable Subject as Outlined in Project Exhibit Guidelines (15%) - How relatable is the content to computers and technology? For the specific categories within the computer project, are you demonstrating some particular skill, or presenting a solution based on one of the groups? For grades 6-8 and 9-12+, were you able to take one of the categories and tie it into another topic/concern to make a novel solution? If you are demonstrating a specific skill, is it advanced and level appropriate? Approaches to consider (not limited to, however):
    • I demonstrated learning something new and documented my findings.
    • I am providing learning materials that someone else can utilize to learn a new skill.
    • I am applying specialized knowledge that I learned or previously knew to solve a problem or demonstrate a specific technology.
    • I am applying specialized knowledge that I learned or previously knew to solve a problem or demonstrate utility in a different context (e.g., using technology to solve a problem or demonstrate advances within agriculture or some other area of interest).
    • I have built or developed something specific that I wish to demonstrate to a broader audience.
  • Attracts Interest (Original, good use of color, high quality graphics [if used]) (15%) - This will primarily pertain to formatting. We will look for:
    • spelling and grammatical issues (as applicable by age group)
    • appropriate use of colors, headings, titles, spacing, etc.
    • overall look-and-feel of the presentation – is it something a passer-by would feel compelled to stop and read more?
    • if used, quality of graphics and figures (e.g., don’t paste in pixelated images borrowed from Google; we’d rather not have them than have bad looking graphics); make sure aspect ratios are proper; no skewed tall-and-thin or short-and-wide images or figures
  • Subject (Well organized, easily understood, encourages thought) (15%) - Did your content make sense? Did it provide value to the reader? Was the content appropriate for the audience? Did the presentation, if necessary, define the intended audience?
  • Accomplishes Purpose (20%) - You sought out on a journey to complete this project. Did you achieve your goal? Did you document it as such? If you failed, did you also document it? Do the provided artifacts clearly articulate how you successfully concluded your project?
  • Project Flow (Project is well organized, has a logical and clear flow) (20%) - While we gave you general guidelines on how to build your portfolio, it is up to YOU to put your work together in the most logical and presentation-friendly way. As we flip through your notebook, does the content flow well? Will we be confused after reading content? Is everything properly labeled and documented?

Regarding Prior Art

One concern I heard early on is the usage of “prior art” in projects. Specifically, this would take an example of prior work (e.g., following a tutorial that generates a final product) that is publicly available, working to the end, and submitting it as an entry to the Computer Project. Nothing forbids such an entry from being submitted, but I do want to highlight a couple of things we will consider:

  1. Working tutorials and submitting them is acceptable. However, we require a significant portion of time, and notebook space spent documenting the learning outcomes of the tutorial and how that impacted the youth. It is NOT okay to submit a tutorial output claiming it as independent and original work. We also require that you cite and provide reference to any tutorials used.
  2. In the same vein, if someone would like to submit a tutorial as an original work, we would require the level of effort defined #1 above, and some sort of additional demonstration of skill(s) learned. Walt Disney would frequently ask his Imagineers how they would “plus” new creations they were completing. That is, show us WHAT you learned by significantly improving the originally intended product of the tutorial.

We wish to keep the playing field level. Many of our youth spend a lot of time learning specific skills to generate something fantastic, but because they are learning, those entries may not be as polished. On the other hand, some youth run through a quick tutorial and present something that seems highly polished, but the learning wasn’t as deep. Our intent is about both: learning and displaying knowledge. We want to encourage learning and demonstrating knowledge and discourage presenting disingenuous experience.


Finally, we will provide concise feedback, where possible, for our judged entries. We want to ensure that our youth understand where they excelled and where improvements are possible. The judge I will be utilizing this year has an extensive computing background and has also volunteered extensively in the 4-H program. I will also be involved in a supervisory capacity because I have a keen interest in seeing what amazing things our 4-H’ers will bring to the table this year. I’m sure it will be nothing short of excellent!

Tippecanoe County 4-H