2022 Kansas State Fair STEM Judges Training

Have you ever wanted to be immersed in how the STEM projects (Ag Mechanics, Architecture Block Creations, Astronomy, Computers Robotics, Rocketry, and UAS) are judged at the Kansas State Fair? Maybe you want to see if you have what it takes to be a STEM judge.

This year we have 10 openings for those interested in learning about how STEM projects are judged at the Kansas State Fair. Those selected will get to shadow judges in each of the STEM areas to understand how the each area is judged and the nuances of judging at the State Fair. Those who complete the rotations will be added to the list of potential STEM judges for future fairs. 

Judging Starts at Noon on Wednesday September, 7th. We ask those participating in this STEM judges training event arrive and check in by 11:30 AM. Judging of exhibits typically concludes around 5PM.

All participants in the STEM judges training need to be adult volunteers (19+ and no longer enrolled in 4-H) or extension agents. Prior experience judging at the county fairs is encouraged but not required. Youth who wish to participate in the preparation and placement of STEM exhibits can sign up as a volunteer for the Kansas State Fair through their county extension office.

Lunch will be provided for judges, volunteers, and judge training program participants.

You may complete the registration form for the judges training online HERE. Those selected will be notified before Friday, August 26th.

For question about the judges training program use the contact page on the Kansas STEM site.

2021 State Fair Forms Available

The 2021 State Fair forms are available and have been published in their respective areas on the website. You can use the navigation menu across the top to find the area you are looking for. If you have questions about the forms or any other STEM content please use the Contact us page and let us know.

I do apologize that this took longer than normal to publish. Even though the updates look simple, to do all of the processing on the forms requires that I find a large block of uninterrupted time to process and adjust elements.

Additionally this year we have added two new areas to the STEM Program, Ag Mechanics and Architectural Block Construction (ABC).

Ag Mechanics covers welding, brazing, and smithing. We know this year is a fairly limited size for the exhibits, this is because we don’t have all the accommodations worked out yet to support large exhibits. As those details are worked out look for expanded sizes in the years to come.

ABC isn’t called “Lego’s” because there are many types of interlocking blocks on the market and youth can use whatever block type they have available. We are also focusing on how this relates to architecture, the blocks are a medium for creating that architecture.

At the Kansas State Fair, the use of kits in ABC is prohibited. This is so youth are judged on their abilities to create from scratch, a block environment, instead of following someone else’s instructions. Which could potentially turn this division into a money competition in my personal opinion. (Have you looked at the price of sets? If someone can afford a really complex set that puts others at a disadvantage before the judging has even started. Without sets in the mix there is a more level playing field. )

We are looking forward to an exciting year!



2020 KSF – Best In Show

For the last 20 or so years the STEM division (Astronomy, Computer Systems, Robotics, Rocketry, and UAS) judges have had a tradition where while they judge they look for entries that are considered “Best In Show.” There are no defined rules that distinguish a rocket as “best in show,” it is entirely at the discretion of the judges. These best in show exhibits are not just purple award winning entries, but entries that exemplify the 4-H motto, “to make the best better.”

Normally these exhibits are placed in special case(s) at the Kansas State Fair (KSF) in Hutchinson. With the pandemic this year, that obviously didn’t happen. However exhibits were judged remotely and there were several that caught the judge’s eyes.

Since we are unable to put them special case we want to post them here so they get the recognition they have earned by being best in show at the Kansas State Fair this year. Additionally if you would like to see all of the Kansas State Fair results please visit the State Fair results page.

In no particular order the following are the 2020 Kansas State Fair STEM divisions best in show.

Daniel Rausch
Exhibitor: 337 Exhibit: 2285 Division: Rocketry

Adam Snowball
Exhibitor: 676 Exhibit: 1321 Division: Rocketry

Anthony Jelinek
Exhibitor: 1168 Exhibit: 2809 Division: Rocketry

Alex Whipple
Exhibitor: 1213 Exhibit: 2253 Division: Rocketry

Grace Bravi
Exhibitor: 1249 Exhibit: 2236 Division: Robotics

Clark Burgert
Exhibitor: 1452 Exhibit: 2634 Division: Robotics

Congratulations to all of the 2020 Kansas State Fair Exhibitors on your accomplishments. We hope you will all join us again for the 2021 Kansas State Fair.

2020 Kansas State Fair Virtual Exhibit Packets

The 2020 Kansas State Fair 4-H SpaceTech exhibits are going virtual. Below you will find the forms for each of the SpaceTech exhibit classes. These are designed to provide a consistent experience for both youth and judges.

You can see an example of the rocketry exhibit form completed to give you and idea what a submission would look like.

Rocketry, Robotics, and computer Systems classes require a video. Rocketry will accept optional videos but they are not required.

Exhibit Packets:

Below are the items required for each division and class. Note that items in column 1, 2, 3, & 4 are required to be included with your virtual exhibit. Following the table are some additional details.

DivisionClass#Class DescriptionItem 1 (required)Item 2 (required)Item 3 (required)Item 4 (required)Item 5 (optional)
Computer5590Computer program, application, app, script, or coded systemDisplay pictureComputer Systems Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationEngineers Journal (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Source Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Computer5591Computer presentationDisplay pictureComputer Systems Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationEngineers Journal (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Source Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Computer5592Single computer systemDisplay pictureComputer Systems Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationEngineers Journal (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Source Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Computer5593Networked SystemDisplay pictureComputer Systems Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationEngineers Journal (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Source Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Computer5594CHIP SystemDisplay pictureComputer Systems Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationEngineers Journal (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Source Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Robotics5509 & 5513Robot made from a commercial (purchased) kit. (No Programming just assembly)Display pictureRobotics Packet (PDF)Link to video presentation
Robotics5510 & 5514Robot designed by exhibitor.Display pictureRobotics Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationSource Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Robotics5511 & 5515Programmable robot made from a commercial (purchased) kitDisplay pictureRobotics Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationSource Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Robotics5546 & 5547Robot from a commercial kit, operated by a remote controlledDisplay pictureRobotics Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationSource Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Robotics5544 & 5545Junk drawer robotDisplay pictureRobotics Packet (PDF)Link to video presentation
Robotics5517Team Robotics ProjectDisplay pictureRobotics Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationSource Code (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Rocketry5520 & 5525Rocket made from kitDisplay pictureRocketry Packet (PDF)Link to video presentation
Rocketry5521 & 5526Rocket designed by exhibitorDisplay pictureDbE Rocketry Packet (PDF)Rocket Construction Plans (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Link to video presentation
Rocketry5527Rocket designed by exhibitor with alternative skinsDisplay pictureDbE Rocketry Packet (PDF)Rocket Construction Plans (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Link to video presentation
Rocketry5530Team rocket designed by two or more peopleDisplay pictureDbE Rocketry Packet (PDF)Rocket Construction Plans (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)Link to video presentation
Rocketry5536Mid-Power RocketDisplay pictureHPR/MPR Rocketry Packet (PDF)Link to video presentation
Rocketry5535High Power RocketDisplay pictureHPR/MPR Rocketry Packet (PDF)Link to video presentation
UAS5701 & 5706UAS designed and constructed by exhibitorDisplay pictureUAS Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationConstruction Plans (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
UAS5702 & 5707UAS practical applicationDisplay pictureUAS Packet (PDF)Link to video presentationNotebook, poster, display, etc. (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx, image file)
Educational NotebooksDisplay pictureNotebook (doc, docx, pdf, ppt, pptx)
Educational Displays & PostersDisplay pictureCloseup 1 (image file)Closeup 2 (image file)Closeup 3 (image file)Closeup 4 (image file)

Display Picture – All Exhibits need a display picture, this is what will be displayed publicly for the exhibit, this is what everyone will see. Other content is for judging purposes.

Link to Video Presentation – For many of the divisions a video is required. We encourage these be uploaded to YouTube or other video sharing service and adding the video as “unlisted” and then providing the link to the video. The video can the be removed after September 9th. Rocketry exhibits do not require a video, we welcome those who wish to share a video with the judges about their rocket but it is not required.

Display Packets – These are like the exhibit packets that are constructed for STEM exhibits each year, in addition to the traditional forms we are asking that you include some extra pictures to enable judging typically top, bottom, and side views of the rockets. All of these packets can be downloaded from this page. They are PDFs that are form fillable which allows you to just click and add pictures and information. To use the forms you will need to save it to your computer and open it in Adobe Acrobat Reader as most web browsers do not support forms in PDFs. Once done you can save the change made to the PDF. Realize that the PDF may become quite large and take a while to transfer. For best results we recommend cropping images to just the exhibit.

Code – Several projects require source code, some source code is picture based such as Ozobots and NXT’s others use lots of text files. The State Fair system does not support many of these file types, so what we encourage everyone to do is for pictures of code, place the pictures of the code in a PowerPoint file one after the other or a Word document. For text based content, the code should be pasted into a word document or printed out as a PDF. To print to a PDF in Windows 10, you can use the “Microsoft Print to PDF” printer under print function for your application.

Journals – For the computer systems project journals are required, these should already be typed up and will just need saved as a Word document, PDF, or PowerPoint File. To print to a PDF in Windows 10, you can use the “Microsoft Print to PDF” printer under print function for your application.

Plans – For rockets, robots, and unmanned aerial systems that are designed by the exhibitor (DbE) plans are required. These should be in a Word, PDF, or PowerPoint Document. These describe how to construct your exhibit and should be a detailed as possible. To print to a PDF in Windows 10, you can use the “Microsoft Print to PDF” printer under print function for your application.

Signatures – Some projects ask for signatures, to simplify the packets we are waiving the signature requirements.

Please Note: For rocketry, rockets DO NOT need to be launched this year, as there have been several counties that have been under a burn ban due to dry conditions. Also for rocketry, the video is optional, and it can be anything about the rocket, from youth talking about it to just a video of the rocket its self. The video just provides the judge with additional context and the ability to look at the rocket.

Please Note: (8-26-20) For robotics, the section in the exhibit packet titled “One or more photographs of the robot during construction” is meant to represent the “one to three pages of project photographs” as described in the rules. Typically project photographs happen at the beginning, middle or end of constructing a project. (Parts needed to construct, parts being assembled, and my completed robot.) Judges will be provided clarification regarding this as part of their orientation. We encourage youth to document the progress made throughout the creation of their projects, this documentation is not only beneficial for the judges, but also in the record keeping process.

If you have questions about completing the packets or any of materials and how they need to be prepared for the state fair this year please use the contact page.

Rocket launches and fire safety

Photo: noaa.gov

This is a safety reminder about Kansas 4-H rocketry rules as they relate to fire bans in Kansas. While many parts of Kansas have recently experienced strong storms, we know that weather conditions can change rapidly, often in only a few days or weeks.  The 2020 Kansas State Fair rocketry rules state “if a fire burn ban is in effect for any county in Kansas, exhibitors in any Kansas county are not required to launch their rocket(s).  All requirements for the launching of rockets for the state fair and the documenting of the launching are suspended for the duration of the ban.” We advise all counties to always be cautious and use good judgment in planning and conducting county rocket launches, and consider cancelling them if dry conditions warrant. If you have comments or questions, please use the contact us page, or reach out to your local count extension office or the State 4-H office.

If you wouldn’t light a match and throw it on the ground you shouldn’t launch a rocket.

Stay safe with your rocketry endeavors.

Remote Control Robots vs. Remote Controlled Cars

Today I got the question: Is a robot with a remote control that takes a step with each press of the remote (walks) the same as a remote controlled car? Rule 9 in robotics for the Kansas State Fair states: “Remote controlled robots are allowed under certain conditions provided that the robot is not drivable.  Remote controlled cars, boats, planes and/or action figures, etc. are not allowed.”

Here is my interpretation of Rule 9 for the Kansas 4-H SpaceTech Robotics as published for 2019 Kansas State Fair.

The big question on this is what are the “series” of actions that occur each time you press the button?

If you press the button and the logic for the button press, for example, is spin motor for 5 seconds or 200 degrees or until you let go of the button and that’s all that happens. Then it’s the same logic as a remote controlled car. You press the button and it moves forward and that is the only thing in the logic “series” that happens.

Now, if the robot has more sets of logic in the series, like spin motor 1 for 200 degrees, spin motor 3 for 90 degrees, leave motors 2 and 4 stationary, and then motors 2 and 4 repeat the 200 and 90 degree spins while motors 1 and 3 remain stationary. That’s a logic series of tasks, and that’s really the dividing line. If when you press the button more than one thing is happening for that button click (preferably with some form of condition like an “if” or a “while” statement) then there is a clear difference between remote control cars. In other words a whole series of things has to happen correctly for it to move forward, not just spinning a motor till you let go of the button.

For example if you built a remote controlled robot that did a figure 8 when you hit a button, that is a series of actions: turn left, keep left, keep left, turn right, keep straight, turn right, keep right, keep right, turn left, keep straight, repeat. The operator with the remote doesn’t have to know all the steps to perform a figure 8, the robot already knows them and the operator just has to know to push the button.

Example of a car’s, boat, action figures logic:

Standard Remote Controlled Car Logic when a button or lever is pressed. When pressed the Move operation is performed until the button is released.

Example of more sophisticated logic or a “series” of events that goes beyond a typical “remote control car” setup:

Advanced logic of a robot when a button is pressed. Start by doing task MOT1 then MOT3, after which a condition is evaluated. If true then task MOT1 and MOT3 are executed if False then MOT2 and MOT4 are executed.

This is why the rules ask for the copies of the code used for the robot. That way the judges can see the logic of how a robot functions, is it just a single thing that happens with the push of a button or is there more happening, something that shows the robot completing a task? (In this example 4 motors being logically orchestrated in a specific sequence to “walk” in a given manner.)

This is my interpretation of: Is a robot with a remote control that walks the same as a remote controlled car? Other judges and superintendents may interpret this rule differently and that is their desecration to do so.

If you need guidance feel free to post your remote control specific questions in the comments below or use the contact page to send your question to us.

2019 Northeast Leadership Event – SpaceTech

Here are the materials that were to be presented at the 2019 Northeast Leadership Event (NELE). Due to weather the NELE was canceled. Enjoy the material below and should you have questions please use the contact us page or add a comment at the bottom of the page.

Each participant in the SpaceTech workshop would have participated in 3 projects geared toward developing stronger leadership skills in STEM programs. Had the session been held, participants would have received a kit with all the materials needed to create these projects. The projects that were planed were:

  • Fizzy Rockets
  • Straw Rockets
  • A Simple Altitude Tracker

Kit contents

Fizzy Rocket

1 – Foam Rocket Cover                                  Optional, or build a better performing rocket with paper

1 – Film Canister                                               https://1drnrd.me/FilmCanister

1 – Packet of Alka-Seltzer tablet(s)           https://1drnrd.me/seltzer


Straw Rocket

1 – Large Straw                                                 https://1drnrd.me/BigStraw

1 – Small Straw                                                  Just about any will work

3 – Mailing Labels                                             Use various sizes to experiment with flight

Altitude Tracker

1 – Large Straw                                                 https://1drnrd.me/BigStraw

1 – Protractor                                                    https://1drnrd.me/protractor

2 – Mailing Labels                                             Tape works as well, just needed to attach the straw

1 – String                                                             Any string will work

1 – Washer                                                         Used as a weight, any item that can keep the string tight works



Safety glasses are strongly recommended for the above projects.

1 – Pair Safety Glasses                                   https://1drnrd.me/glasses

Links to products are provided as examples and do not constitute endorsement of these products or sellers.

Capitalization on the links above matter.
https://1drnrd.me/protractor is not the same as https://1drnrd.me/Protractor

November 2018 Robotics Experience

On November 16th and 17th, Kansas 4-H and the Cosmosphere offered a Robotics Experience to youth and adults across Kansas.Thank you to everyone who was able to Join us at the SpaceTech Robotics experience at the Kansas Cosmosphere. We hope everyone had a great time at the event. Photos from the event are available through the online gallery once you have requested a login. You can request one by using the contact form for the website. Videos taken will be posted at a later time as they require additional processing.



2018 Alien Experience

On April 6th Kansas 4-H in conjunction with the Kansas Cosmosphere held an Alien Experience.

Opening Session or the 2018 Alien ExperianceFor those that attended the experience you can access the gallery of pictures from the event at https://stem4ks.com/gallery. To access the pictures please use the contact page and in the comments page request an account for the gallery. If you did not attend the Experience you will not be able to access the gallery. Your email will be validated prior issuing an account.

Choosing Your First Rocket

Congratulations on participating in the 4-H Rocketry project. In this blog post I want to provide you with some tips on picking out a rocket for the county fair. These tips apply to most counties in Kansas but possibly not all.  These tips will also help you if you are eligible to take your rocket to the Kansas State Fair.

If the rules for rocketry seem really really long you are right they are.  The rocketry project is really complex. After all it is rocket  science. 🙂 Luckily in this post and the ones to follow I will try to break it down so you can get started building really cool rockets for the county fair.

The first thing we have to figure out is where should we go to purchase a rocket. There are several choices. I recommend you try one of of the following.

  1. A local hobby store or science center. These will have the best selection and will be the most knowledge about rocketry.
  2. A hobby chain store, like Hobby Lobby. These will have a good selection of rockets you can choose from. Big box stores don’t typically carry a good selection of rockets so you may want to skip them.
  3. Online. There are many hobby stores online that have rockets you can order. It can be hard to get a good idea of what the rocket looks like.

Now that you know where to buy your rocket lets think about what type of rocket you might want to build. You probably know there are all sorts of rockets to choose from, from rockets that are 6 feet tall to rockets that are shorter than 4 inches. Which is the best rocket for your first or second year at the fair?

First thing we want is a rocket that has cardboard or balsa wood fins. DO NOT get one that has plastic fins, even if they snap together. Most counties and the state fair do not allow plastic fins of any sort. The reason for this is the judges want to see your ability to construct a rocket not the company that makes it. That said there are a lot of good rockets to choose from that have balsa wood or cardboard fins.

It’s ok if you want to build one with plastic fins, just don’t bring it to the fair unless you know your county allows them.

Now that we have the fins taken care of what other things should you look for when choosing a rocket?

The next thing you want to check is if the rocket is a “scale model” or not. What’s a scale model? In simple terms its any full sized rocket you’ve seen before. For example the space shuttle, AMRAM missiles, Atlas missiles, the Star Trek Enterprise, etc. What the Enterprise isn’t a real rocket? Your right, but the TV series defined the dimensions of the full sized ship so it counts as a scale model. At this point you’re probably wondering if there is an easy way to figure out if a rocket is a scale model. In most cases there is. If you look at the package it will say something like “1:25 Scale” or “Replica” or “Scale Model.”

If its a scale model I recommend avoiding that model for your first year. The reason for this is judges are more picky on these rockets especially with how they are painted. There is a rule in most fair books that says “scale models” are to be painted like the real thing. That means if the rocket has red paint on the fins and the rest of the rocket is white the judges will expect it to have red fins and a white body.  So skip the “scale models” for your first year.

RocketLaunchIt’s my personal preference to get an Estes model rocket your first year. The reason for this is that most of the time their instructions are very complete and they are really good if something was damaged when you open up the model kit to start constructing it.

So which model to choose? Pick something fairly simple. 3 or 4 fins that’s about a foot long. I know you want something that has a lot of fins and looks really cool. The best way to impress the judges your first few years in the project is build a high quality simple model. To judges that is more cool than a complex rocket. As a rocketry judge I have seen simple rockets that have received a purple and an average looking complex rockets that got a Red.  It’s not about how cool a rocket looks, it’s about how well you construct it.

So go and pick a rocket with balsa wood or cardboard  fins that’s not a “scale model.” Then get ready to blast off!

In my next post I’ll cover picking up the supplies you will need to build your rocket.