During the initial Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF) pilot test and first-year program, some student teams had difficulty locating technical advisors and focusing their projects. The idea of an "ISTF Project Site" was developed as a means for companies or federal agencies to provide comprehensive support to teams. The site would enable ISTF staff to work with a company or agency to:
ISTF staff would identify a school and connect the teacher and team with the scientist or engineer at the ISTF Project Site. The team as a whole would then be better positioned to participate in the ISTF competition.
The ISTF Project Site approach was tested when the University of Central Florida's College of Engineering and Computer Science (UCF-CECS) partnered with the Electronic Industries Foundation (EIF) in 1999. For the next three years, UCF worked with EIF to:
TRW, SHARP Electronics, Harris Corporation, Lucent Technologies, ADC Corporation, Phillips Research and others have successfully supported student teams. While working with the EIF, we referred to the ISTF Project Site approach as the "industry-sponsored project." In the 2000-2001 competition, Lucent supported a student team to research the application of environmental monitoring sensor technology to Superfund Waste Sites. A Phillips Research team explored future applications of personalized televisions. ADC Corporation sponsored multiple teams in three states and in Ireland, all with technical applications related to broadband technology. The following is an example of an industry sponsored technical application:
Leviton Manufacturing Company, Inc., is one of the largest companies in the world specializing in the design, development, and production of electrical and telecommunications wiring devices. A major market where electrical and telecommunications wiring devices are used is in "Home Automation" A representative from Leviton (with an engineering background) will be assisting as a technical advisor to an ISTF Project Homepage Team to explore how electrical and telecommunications wiring devices could be used in Home Automation to help special populations (elderly, handicapped, etc.) live an independent lifestyle.
UCF's greatest concern when introducing and testing the industry sponsored project model was whether the process afforded one team an advantage over other teams. In the 2001-2002 ISTF competition 65% of all the projects were "student-initiated." These student teams determined their own project focus and located their own technical advisors. After a third year of evaluating the results, it is evident that a team using an industry- sponsored project does not have an unfair advantage over a team that initiates its own project. Evaluations clearly indicate that a successful ISTF project is based on:
The industry-sponsored project process is now referred to as the "ISTF Sponsored Project" model as we explore the same application process with a diverse range of organizations. It offers student teams an opportunity to participate in the ISTF competition by exploring a specific technical application related to the sponsoring organization's expertise. This is viewed as an outstanding chance for students to connect with experts in the field they are interested in researching.
The ISTF Program at UCF-CECS will continue to partner with organizations that provide funding and technical support using the ISTF Sponsored Project model. We are actively seeking new partners to further test and develop this approach. The UCF-CECS will be targeting industry trade organizations, federal, state and local governments, professional associations and academic research centers and institutes as possible new partners. Organizations that wish to participate must have access to a talent pool of individuals and/or member organizations where sponsored project models may be developed, connections with schools in their communities can be made and financial resources are available to help underwrite their involvement in the ISTF Program.
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