The Software Behind This Site

The NJRSF began its journey into the e-fair space rather early, in 1993. In that year we had our first electronic registration facility, based on the ability of a school to mail us a floppy disk with the information on their students, in a specified format. We've come a long ways from that beginning. In 1996, we implemented a web-based registration system, and found that even that year nearly half of our students were willing to use it. By about 1999, we had more than 95% of our entries arriving over the web, and since 2003, it's been 100%.

At the same time, we began developing judge registration software, to make it easier to recruit and organize the large number of judges needed to make the fair run. The current judge registration system is largely based on the original one, except that it assumes that the judging committee will use other facilities (like Excel) to process the data, rather than trying to provide a complete suite of assignment and management options on the site itself.

And, most recently, the NJRSF became the first science fair in the country to run its scientific review process entirely electronically, via the website. We began in 2011 allowing students to submit forms electronically, and in 2012 we went to a process where all the forms were used by the committee in electronic form, on the website, rather than on paper. (It's worth noting that that capability saved us from a major problem that year, when some of the SRC personnel had to depart suddenly due to a family emergency.) Since 2013, we have not accepted paper ISEF forms at all--everything is electronic. We've added a web-signature process as an alternative to digital signatures, since it turned out that some parents and advisors were having trouble using the latter.

All of this capability is now built into the software we are making available to the science fair community. The system was originally running on a corporate site, where the author worked. When we decided to port it to an external site (we are now using an Amazon cloud server), the author decided to rewrite the entire package to make it configurable for use by other fairs. The software currently available is the result of that process. I should point also that the configurability makes it possible to install the same website on a mobile computer for use on-site, and in fact this is how we run our fair. The local functions include the ability for judges to directly enter results into the system (we use a local wireless network not open to the internet, to avoid any possibility of hacking during the fair).

NOTE: THERE IS NOW A DEMO SITE AVAILABLE for science fairs that want to evaluate our software for their own use. Just go to njrsf.org:8080.

The software used for this site is designed to run on a rather plain vanilla LAMP server (Linux/Apache/Mysql/Perl). There is considerable adaptability built in, since it uses a configuration file that defines items pervasive to the website (e.g. the name of the fair, the fully qualified domain name foer the site, etc.) as well as active configuration information contained in a mysql database table. The latter makes it possible to configure many aspects of the site on the fly (including the processes open to the users, the status of the student and judge registration screens, and the navbar links, to name a few examples).

A full user manual is available for any fair that wants to try out the software. You can contact the author, Ken Lyons (kblyons46@gmail.com), for information.