Pre-Approval FAQ’s

For more detailed answers, read the information and Internet links on our Research Rules and Regulations page and sub-pages if the student project involves:

Do I need to get my project pre-approved if…

I am asking my friends questions about something they do (time on computer, if they eat breakfast, their preference of food/drinks, etc.)?

  • Yes, you need pre-approval. The SRC wants to make sure that you are keeping all your records confidential and not using names in your project.

If I am having friends/classmates take a test or quiz?

  • Yes, you need pre-approval. The SRC wants to make sure that you are keeping all your records confidential and not using names in your project.

If I am having people do exercise or perform an activity (jumping rope, play a video game, run a race, walk blindfolded, etc.)?

  • Yes, you need pre-approval. The SRC wants to make sure that 1) participants will not be injured as a result of your experiment and 2) you are keeping all your records confidential and not using names in your project. Some activities can be strenuous and may require the supervision of a physician.

If I am having people take medication/herbs or eat/drink substances?

  • Yes, you need pre-approval. The SRC wants to make sure that 1) participants will not be injured as a result of your experiment and 2) you are keeping all your records confidential and not using names in your project. You need to consider food/herb/spice California Ed. Code also prohibits many over the counter medications being brought to school. A student may observe and collect data for analysis of medical procedures and medication administration only under the direct supervision of a qualified professional. Students are prohibited from administering medications and performing medical procedures on human subjects or vertebrate animals. The only exception is: If a student is working with a veterinarian searching for a cure for his/her personal animal. Strict veterinary supervision is required. The Los Angeles County Science and Engineering SRC highly recommends refraining from administering any medications, prescriptions or over-the-counter, for the purpose of a science fair project.

I am working with plant cells?

  • No

I am working with animal cells I got from meat I bought at the grocery store or meat butcher shop?

  • No, if you buy meat, eggs, etc. from a grocery store or meat butcher shop, you do not need pre-approval.

I am working with animal cells I got from a dead animal?

  • It is prohibited by the California Ed. Code for a K-12 student to be involved in the harm or death of a vertebrate animal for the sake of experimentation. The exception is accidental death during animal husbandry (raising animals.) You may use cells for experimentation only if an animal was euthanized (put to death) by a qualified scientist for a purpose other than your project. You will have to provide detailed information on how those cells were obtained and who sacrificed the animal.

I am working with human or animal hair?

  • Depends. If you cut the hair, it’s OK and no pre-approval is needed. If you pull the hair out and the follicle is attached, you will need pre-approval.

I am working with my skin or cheek cells (or someone else’s)?

  • Yes, the SRC wants to make sure that sterile equipment is used and there is no cross contamination. If you use someone else’s cells, you need to make sure that confidentiality is maintained.

I am seeing what kind of food my pet dog/cat/fish/bird/hamster etc. prefers?

  • Yes, the SRC and California Ed Code require humane treatment of vertebrate animals. You may need a veterinarian to make sure that no harm comes to the animal in your experiment and that that animal is properly cared for after the experiment (it cannot be killed, released into the wild, returned to a pet store, or given to a shelter).

I am seeing what kind of food/shelter/color wild birds in my yard prefer?

  • Depends. The SRC needs to make sure that the birds will not be harmed and will only be observed. An bird expert may need to supervise the project to make sure that you are not causing any harm to the birds.

I am training my dog/fish/cat/bird/hamster, or other vertebrate to run a maze or perform another task?

  • Yes, the SRC and California Ed Code require humane treatment of vertebrate animals. You will need a veterinarian to make sure that no harm comes to the animal in your experiment and that that animal is properly cared for after the experiment (it cannot be killed, released into the wild, returned to a pet store, or given to a shelter).

I am observing the natural behavior of a vertebrate animal in the wild or in captivity?

  • Depends. If you are observing what an animal naturally does and not changing or manipulating anything, you do not need pre-approval. If you are changing or manipulating anything, then you would need pre-approval. If there were any potential danger in being around an animal, you would need pre-approval.

I am working with a laser?

  • Depends.  There are different classes of lasers. If you use a Class I laser, you do not need pre-approval. Class II, III, and IV require pre-approval as they may cause eye and/or skin damage. Laser pointers are Class I, II or III- you will need to determine which class your laser falls into. (See information on the Hazardous Materials page on the LACSEF website.)

I am using a paintball gun?

  • Yes, this needs SRC approval (risk assessment) to make sure that you are safe during the experiment. You would need an adult expert to supervise you as well. Some cities do not allow the use of solid or liquid propellants in any shape or form.

I am using a BB gun, rifle or handgun?

  • PROHIBITED: California Ed. Code prohibits students from using firearms. This type of project is not allowed in the LA County Science and Engineering Fair.

I want to do archery?

  • Yes, this needs SRC approval (risk assessment) to make sure that you are safe during the experiment. You would need an adult expert to supervise you as well and wear standard arm protection.

I want to burn different types of wood?

  • Yes, this needs SRC approval (risk assessment) to make sure that you and the environment are safe during the experiment. You will need to provide information on the safety measures you will be taking. You should consult with your local fire department to see if there are any additional regulations you need to comply with.

I want to burn chemicals / motor oil?

  • Yes, this needs SRC approval (risk assessment/hazardous materials) to make sure that you and the environment are safe during the experiment. You will need to provide information on the safety measures you will be taking. You should consult with your local fire department to see if there are any additional regulations you need to comply with.

I want to burn candles?

  • No: Your procedure should include an aluminum drip pan to catch hot wax, safety goggles and gloves.

I want to work with household chemicals?

  • Depends on the chemicals you are using. Most household chemicals, if used for their intended purpose and according to the manufacturer’s instructions, are safe to use (ex: vinegar, baking soda, baking powder, Borax, laundry soap, dish soap) and do not need pre-approval. Some chemicals like ammonia and bleach pose health risks and certain precautions would have to be taken and pre-approval would be necessary. Many cleaning agents use ammonia, bleach, or other caustic substances and would need pre-approval. Check with your Site Coordinator before using household chemicals.

I want to work with chemicals not found in my house?

  • Depends on the chemicals you are using. Note: a new system has replaced old MSDS information sheets. You need to check a chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), to see which chemicals are allowed in school MS/HS laboratories and which are too hazardous to use except in an institutional setting, under the supervision of a scientist. Also check the CA Science Safety Handbook for Incompatible Chemicals in Appendix D.

I want to grow mold on bread or fruit?

  • Yes, mold is a microbe and requires pre-approval so the SRC knows that you are observing proper culturing and disposal techniques.

I want to test how well different soaps kill bacteria?

  • Yes, if you are culturing bacteria, you will need SRC approval as bacteria is a microbe so the SRC knows that you are observing proper culturing and disposal techniques.

I want to swab different surfaces (like toilets, door handles, drinking fountains) to compare how much bacteria is on each of them?

  • Yes, if you are culturing bacteria, you will need SRC approval as bacteria is a microbe so the SRC knows that you are observing proper culturing and disposal techniques.