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Science & Engineering


Why STEAM Expo?

More than just a Science Fair, the Tuolumne County STEAM Expo offers a place for students to exhibit their work alongside entertainment and learning opportunities for the entire family. We allow young minds to experience an innovative environment of hands-on science. The STEAM Expo enables students to explore their interests and talents by offering six elective categories from which students can choose: Science Fiction Writing, Scientific Illustration/Nature Notebooking, Rube Goldberg Devices, Biomimicry, Engineering Design Process, and Scientific Inquiry.

Students can compete with their projects or display them for viewing and evaluation. Collaborative groups are permitted to work on projects together, and in the non-competitive arena, whole class projects are welcomed.

In addition, we are proud to be the official county affiliate for the California Science & Engineering Fair (CSEF). A sixth through twelfth-grade student’s entry into the Scientific Inquiry Project category can lead to recognition as one of California’s top young scientists or engineers.

The Tuolumne County STEAM Expo is designed to:

  • Motivate and stimulate the interests of ALL students in all grades in the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics. Creativity and Art are expected to be integrated into the projects.
  • Recognize the achievements and efforts of students in STEM.
  • Identify exemplary projects that will advance to the California Science and Engineering Fair.
  • Stimulate interest and support of grade-level appropriate STEAM integration within our schools.


Tuolumne County STEAM Expo Supporters

Columbia College
Lions Club International


February 28, 2024
Tribes of Tuolumne (John Muir) Building
Mother Lode Fairgrounds

Event Contact

Tricia Dunlap



Science Inquiry & Engineering Projects

Competitive Science and Engineering Projects

  • All grades (non-competitive) – Whole Class or Small Groups
  • Sixth-Grade through High School Competitive – Individual or Small Group

Optional for any project:
Video: Create a video to explain your science fair project to judges. Please use a universally playable format like MP4. Your video may be no longer than 3 minutes. You might stand in front of a physical poster and present or record yourself speaking over slides. When designing your video, consider how you can most effectively showcase your thinking, and feel free to be creative. You can add your short video with a QR Code to your display.



Biomimicry (Biomimetic Design)
  • All grades (non-competitive) – whole class or small groups
  • Sixth-Grade through High school (optional competitive)

Definition: Biomimicry is the practice of applying lessons from nature to the invention of healthier, more sustainable technologies for
humans. Have fun with this, and let your students think “outside the indoor box”. Use nature to design something that helps to make the world a better place. A great place to start is by scrolling through Innovators are full of questions. Nature has the answers. This is a non-competitive category, and students will receive a participation award for submissions if minimum requirements are met. Sixth through twelfth-grade students can choose to enter their biomimetic design projects in the Engineering category of the competitive Scientific Inquiry section. This may allow them to be eligible to advance to the California Science and Engineering Fair.

Learn more from the Biomimicry Institute and get inspiration from the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge – Middle and High School students can also submit their projects to the Youth Design Challenge (YCD). The registration deadline for Biomimicry YCD is March 1, 2023, and the project submission deadline is April 1, 2023.



Robotics Exhibition
  • All Grades

Definition: A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, often by remote control. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous, or remotely controlled. The teams in the robotics category must design a robot or a robotic device that accomplishes a specific purpose. The team identifies the purpose. This is a non-competitive event, but teams will receive an award for participation if minimum requirements are met. We encourage student robotic teams or clubs to host a demonstration during the 2023 STEAM Expo on the evening of March 10, 2023.

Rube Goldberg
  • All grades

Definition: A Rube Goldberg assembly, contraption, invention, device, or apparatus is a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883-1970). This is a non-competitive event for students in grades TK-12. Students who participate and meet the minimum requirements will receive a participation award.

Minimum Requirements:

There are no minimum requirements for participation. However, we encourage you to challenge your students and allow them to design and re-design their device as an individual, small group, or whole class.

High School students should be able to design a successful device that has a minimum of 10 ‘cause and effect’ steps and uses at least three simple machines (e.g., lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, screw, wedge)

Middle School students should be able to design a successful device that has a minimum of 7 ‘cause and effect’ steps and uses at least three simple machines (e.g., lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, screw, wedge)

Elementary School students should be able to design a successful device that has 3-5 ‘cause and effect’ steps and uses at least two simple machines (e.g., lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, screw, wedge)

Students are welcome to also draw a simple machine cartoon.

Learn more about the Rube Goldberg competition at

Scientific Illustration & Nature Journaling
  • All grades – non-competitive

Definition: Scientific Illustrations is a genre of drawing that captures the scientific and technological world. Scientific Illustrations can be created using pencils, colored pencils, watercolors, etc. The Guild Handbook of Science Illustration states, “As art reflects culture, scientific illustration reflects the findings of science and technology.”
Definition: Nature Journaling is collecting and organizing your observations, questions, connections, and explanations on the pages of a notebook using words, pictures, and numbers. This is a non-competitive category, and students will receive a participation award for submissions if minimum requirements are met.

Minimum Requirements

A Successful Science Illustration Entry Must Have The Following:

  • The illustration must be an original work completed by the student.
  • The illustration must be related to science or technology and should include detail.
  • Color is advisable but not required
  • Photographs are not accepted.

Nature journaling resources and examples can be found on this website: John Muir Laws: Nature Stewardship Through Science, Education, and Art.

California Academy of Sciences: Introduction to Scientific Sketching

The Franklin Institute Scientific Illustration: What Is It?

Science Fiction Writing
  • All grade levels
  • Grades TK-3 – Whole Class
  • Grades 4-12 – Individual or Pairs

Definition: Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content, such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”.

PDF format is preferred, but we can handle just about any electronic document format. Document with accompanying illustrations will need to be submitted to Tricia Dunlap,, by February 24, 2023.

Minimum Requirements

A Successful Science Fiction Story Entry Must Have The Following:

  • Minimum of one handwritten page per grade level of participant (12 font, 1.5 space if typed) except grades TK-3. (1/2 handwritten page minimum for TK-1 and one handwritten page minimum for 2-3.)
  • Illustrations are encouraged but are optional and can be drawn by someone other than the participant as long as credit is given.


  • Knowledge and understanding of the topic are conveyed
  • Thinking includes the creative use of ideas and imagination
  • The story keeps the readers’ attention
  • Dialogue (if present) is used well and flows appropriately

Writing Process

  • Writing is organized with a clear beginning, middle, and end
  • Sentences are clear, spelling is accurate, and structure is grammatically correct
  • The use of details, adjectives, and examples is well done and appropriate


  • The presentation is clean and well laid out (Title page, typed/printed in 12-point font, with 1.5 line spacing if applicable)
  • If illustrations are used, they are appropriate and add to the story

Courtesy of Placer County STEM Expo and to use as exemplars for your students: Past Science Fiction Winners

4th Grade Writing Example: The Planet of Zipperzurk