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The Judging Circle

At the CIC, students are separated by grade into groups of 9-10. Each group will have at least two judges assigned to it, forming a "judging circle".

The CIC judging circle is a concept that seeks to involve the entire group of young inventors in a discussion of each invention, as led by the judges. The purpose of the judging circle is to give students a forum to:

  • Share their inventions and experiences
  • Get feedback on their inventions from professionals and peers
  • Learn about the inventions and experiences of fellow students
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of the inventions and suggest improvements

Each inventor is expected to be in the spotlight for approximately 5-8 minutes, with all inventors in the group listening and discussing the invention under consideration at that time.

The judges will ask questions to guide the student who is describing his/her invention. Judges will also encourage the other students to question what they do not understand, to think of other uses for the invention, or to share their feedback on the invention.

The adult inventors, scientists, educators, and other practicing professionals who serve as judges bring a different perspective and level of expertise to the judging circle. They respond to the students' ideas from a professional "real world" point of view. It is this interaction that provides a unique learning experience for the students.

The judging circle will last approximately an hour and a quarter. Ultimately, the judges will select three students from each judging circle to recognize for excellence. We hope that if all students are led in a supportive and productive discussion, they will be able to understand why particular inventions were selected for special recognition.

Judging Criteria

Judging should be based on the following categories, weighted equally.


  • How much creativity went into the invention?
  • How challenging was the problem solved?
  • Did the inventor develop a unique, unusual, or clever solution to the problem?


  • How well did the inventor convey the steps taken to go from concept to invention and were the steps logical?
  • Was the process well documented in the inventor's log book (Young children may use pictures or dictate information to someone)?
  • Is there a clear explanation of the steps taken, including a description of the problem or goal, resources used, obstacles or failures, reasons for choice of materials, final design, and testing?
  • Was credit given to those who helped?
  • What did the inventor do to find out if her or his idea was unique? (This should yield an age-appropriate response: a young child might ask a number of people; an older child should explore catalogs, stores and related companies; a high school student might search the internet or even a patent database.)


  • Does the invention solve the problem that was selected?
  • Does it do what it is supposed to?
  • Does it work even better than expected? (Note that you may be looking at a scaled-down model due to space limitations.)
  • Does it solve other problems, too?


  • What advantages and disadvantages does the invention have compared to existing objects or methods that might solve the same problem?
  • Is the inventor knowledgeable about these alternative solutions?
  • How much thought was given to safety, ease of use, and choice of materials?


  • How important is the problem solved by the invention?
  • Who benefits from it, many, few, or only the inventor?
  • Does it serve a disadvantaged group, like the handicapped, the elderly, or animals? Is the invention more or less friendly to the environment than currently available products?


At the end of the judging circle, you and your fellow judge(s) must pick three inventors for recognition, in no order.

The method of rating the inventions is up to the judges. The only requirement is that you consider the above criteria.

A scoring sheet will be provided for those who wish to assign a score for each category (excellent - 10; very good - 8; good - 6; fair - 4; needs improvement - 2). Scoring is not required, however; it is a tool that you may choose to use. Note to new judges: It may be time consuming to score all elements for each invention in the time allotted. Some judges prefer to rank the top five or six inventions overall and then combine rankings with fellow judges to arrive at the top three.

However you decide to arrive at your three recognized inventors, your scores and rankings will not be seen.

Sample Questions for Students

To the inventor…

  • How did you come up with the idea for your invention?
  • Did you work on the first idea you thought of?
  • Did you have any problems with your invention?
  • Did you build any prototypes before this one?
  • Where did you get your materials/supplies?
  • Have you thought of ways to make your invention even better?
  • Once your invention was finished, did you test it? How?
  • If you had it to do over again, would you have done anything differently?
  • What are the similarities between your invention and other inventions in this judging group?

To the other students in the judging circle…

  • Do you understand the invention? Are there any questions?
  • Do any of you have the problem that this invention solves? Would it work for you?
  • Who would like to try this invention? What do you think about it? Does it work?
  • How might this invention help you or the people you know?
  • Can you find any problems with the invention? How could you [the inventor] fix the problems?
  • What are the similarities between this invention and that one?

To the very young inventors…

  • Did you have fun inventing?
  • What was more fun for you, thinking up your invention or building it and making it work?

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