University of Central Florida
May 5, 2004
Out of an initial field of 230 elementary, middle and high school student teams from 12 states and two countries, students from schools in Oklahoma, New Jersey, Tennessee and California captured top awards in the 8th annual Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF). The program challenges students to use National Critical Technology (NCT) applications - as defined by the RAND Corporation in conjunction with the Office of Science, Technology and Policy - to solve real-world problems using information technology tools. Students develop critical thinking skills as they work on-line with practicing professionals and publish their final research findings in a webpage format.
In addition, thirteen other teams - including nine senior and junior high school teams and four elementary school teams (a record this year) - earned Honorable Mention Certificates from the University of Central Florida's (UCF) College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS), host institution for the ISTF. All finalists, award recipients, and winning projects of this program year and years past are viewable on the Winners page.
The ISTF teaches students how to team, communicate and manage electronic information sources. Equally valuable is the fact that students recognize the knowledge they acquired. As the members of one winning team explained, "Of the many lessons we have learned, the three most significant are: teamwork and cooperation, responsibility and organization, and recognizing and accepting reality."
Practicing professionals (such as scientists and engineers) participated on-line as subject matter experts. These extremely busy people sometimes have only a limited amount of time to aid the students, but others crave more project involvement. One professional remarked in the final evaluation that, "Student teams should involve the technical advisor in each step in developing the project. There may be reluctance to overwhelm the advisor; however, they would learn more and the project would progress faster."
Yet in the final analysis, it is the teacher who is the team leader, supporting the students throughout the four-month project duration. And most teachers recognize the program as a learning experience that combines both theory and practice in a way that complements classroom activities. As one teacher remarked in the final evaluation, "I think it [the ISTF] allows students [to] experience how involved research is. They don't fully understand this with classroom labs. It also gives them a chance to develop their skills of working with others toward completing a common goal which is necessary no matter what is in their future."
The 9th annual ISTF competition officially starts in September 2004. Interested teachers, practicing professionals, parents and others are encouraged to provide contact and general information at the "My ISTF" page to receive program updates via e-mail.