History & Growth

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History and Growth

The Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF) was conceived because of a decline in the number of students declaring engineering as a major. It appeared that somewhere in the K-12 educational process, students were not provided with examples of engineering projects and work in other technical fields that would allow them to explore, ponder and consider these areas as career possibilities.

A review of available literature and news reports indicated the number of students pursuing degrees in engineering and technology has dwindled and become a national problem. Further research suggested there were varying reasons why students were not pursuing careers in technical fields. Examples ranged from students were taking fewer math and science courses because the courses were too difficult to some of the negative connotations associated with scientists and engineers as sometimes portrayed in cartoon strips and on television.

With the help of teachers, we were able to identify activities that appeared to pique students' interest in engineering and other technical fields of study.  They included:
  • Bringing real-world problems to the curricula,
  • Inviting experts into the classrooms, and
  • Using appropriate technology (computers and the Internet) in the curricula.

These findings prompted the realization that a program could be developed that would make a difference in terms of students' perceptions and possible interest in technical fields of study.  We began by incorporating  teaming and a set of technologies (the National Critical Technologies-NCTs) as a beginning point. Then Project Guidelines were developed based on the national science content standards formulated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). We then determined that the Internet and use of information technology would provide the necessary platform and tools for students to develop their four month research projects. The final product became the Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF), which is held annually and attracts students from grades three through twelve.

Participation in the ISTF Program increases each year as this is only the beginning. Most teachers learn about the ISTF from other teachers and/or through visiting our website.  They usually begin with one student team and after the experience engage more students in the years to follow.  Engineers and scientists are usually recruited by the student teams while others consider possible participation through an ISTF Sponsored Project. This has enabled companies, agencies and organizations to familiarize students with what they do, the role of technical professionals in the workplace and related career opportunities. The ISTF Director continues to seek out new partnerships to continue the growth of the program and more importantly, contributing to the technical workforce of the future.

The United States' economic future dictates that the time to get involved is now!