Teacher FAQ

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  1. What is the Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF)?
    • The ISTF is a national technology literacy program that teaches students basic science inquiry, team collaboration and webpage presentation skills.
  2. What is the purpose of the ISTF?
    • The ISTF's goal is to encourage students in grades 3 through 12 to explore real-world science, engineering and technical career opportunities that lie ahead.
  3. How does the ISTF fulfill its intended purpose?
    • Student teams use information and communication technology tools to research solutions, communicate with experts in the field and present their findings in a website format.
  4. I am a home-school teacher for my children; can we still enter the ISTF?
    • Yes. You would act as if you were a traditional school teacher to enter the ISTF and setup an ISTF Teacher Account using the "My ISTF" link.
  5. Is there a cost to participate in the ISTF Program?
    • No. There is no fee to enter the competition.
  6. Students in what grade levels can enter the ISTF?
    • Students in grades 3 through 12 can participate.
  7. Where do I begin if I am interested in participating?
    • Read the Newcomers and/or Team Members section of the ISTF site for Teachers. (Students can also refer to these sections to better understand their role.)
  8. How do I enter my student teams in the competition?
    • The "My ISTF" link allows you to setup an ISTF Teacher Account and then enroll your student team(s) in the competition.
  9. What is an ISTF Teacher Account?
    • An ISTF Teacher Account allows you to access the secure teacher area through a username and password that you choose. NOTE: All ISTF Accounts are free of cost.
  10. When do my student team(s) and I enter the ISTF?
  11. What can I do using my ISTF Teacher Account?
    • EVERYTHING YOU NEED! Add, edit, or delete student teams and your contact information; manage technical advisor information; complete the Progress Report; enter your student teams' final project URLs, and complete the Final Process Evaluation.
  12. What is Student Team Enrollment?
    • Student Team Enrollment officially enters your teams in the competition. Please access your ISTF Teacher Account to do this. NOTE: ONLY teams that ARE officially enrolled will be allowed to participate in the competition.
  13. What information do I need in order to enroll student teams?
    • You will need each team’s National Critical Technology (NCT) Category and NCT Technology Sub-Area, project title, 50-word problem/research statement, and 50-word project solution statement. You must also acquire permission from the principal of your school (or director of your educational organization) to have the student team’s final project website hosted from February to the end of May.
  14. How do student teams devise project ideas?
    • These are only suggestions. Allow student teams to: 1. Identify local or national problems and then select solutions from the list of National Critical Technologies (NCT’s) 2. Choose an NCT and subcategory and then apply the technical application to a problem. 3. Select from a short list of project topics that you provide based on your curriculum.
  15. What should students do after they choose a project topic?
    • The students should then try to locate technical advisors who can help the students focus their ideas and guide their research and development.
  16. How do I group my students into teams?
    • These are only suggestions. You can group students based on: 1. Project ideas, 2. Learning styles, or 3. A shared class (the whole class is a team).
  17. How many students should be on a team?
    • A minimum of three with no maximum limit.
  18. Why do my student teams have to locate their own technical advisors?
    • This method operates on the theory that if student teams locate their own technical advisors, the students will then feel more inclined to seek the advisors' guidance.
  19. How do my students locate a technical advisor?
    • These are only suggestions. You can tap local contacts or instruct students to email federal research laboratories, corporations, local governments or institutions of higher education or ask their parents or relatives.
  20. Why is it important to have a technical advisor?
    • The technical advisor helps students understand the connection between their problem and technical solution, find useful Internet resources to locate information, and verify the technical validity of project content.
  21. What do we do once we find a technical advisor?
    • Make sure the team technical advisor accesses the "My ISTF" link and sets up an ISTF Technical Advisor Account. Then, the technical advisor can officially link to the project.
  22. When should I send an “Advisor Authorization?”
    • You should only send an Authorization when you and/or the team have already contacted the advisor, he or she agreed to be part of the team, and he or she needs to be linked to the Project.
  23. What is the “ISTF Technical Advisor Pool?”
    • In an effort to assist teams with the difficult task of locating technical advisors, the ISTF staff invites practicing professionals from various organizations to enroll setup ISTF Technical Advisor Accounts and make themselves available. These professionals join those who found the program on their own (via the Internet or another source) in the "pool." In sum, the ISTF Technical Advisor Pool is merely a name for the group of technical advisors who are not linked with teams and were not originally solicited by teams.
  24. What does the ISTF do to verify the identities of members of the Technical Advisor Pool?
    • Members of the Technical Advisor Pool must answer specific questions as part of their account setup procedure. Also, the ISTF Director contacts each member via telephone. NOTE: Although the ISTF Director verifies these technical advisors, the teacher ultimately decides whether a technical advisor becomes part of a team.
  25. What is an “Advisor Authorization?”
    • An “Advisor Authorization” is an email that you can send automatically to an advisor through your ISTF Teacher Account. This email represents your permission for the advisor to join the team and allows him or her to officially link to the project.
  26. What does “linking” a project with a technical advisor mean?
    • Because the technical advisor and teacher maintain separate accounts, it is necessary to build a bridge between the two for the purpose of information sharing. This process is called Project Linking.
  27. What happens when I send an “Advisor Authorization?”
    • If you used the same email address to send the authorization as the advisor used to setup his or her account, then the project will appear in the advisor’s project list as pending. Then he or she can easily link to the project. If the email addresses don’t match, then the advisor needs to complete an extra step but can still officially link to the project because you gave your approval.
  28. Why should I make sure that projects are “linked” with the technical advisors?
  29. Who are technical advisors?
    • Technical advisors are practicing professionals (such as scientists, engineers, doctors, or technicians) who act (via the Internet) as subject matter experts for student teams.
  30. How long does the competition last?
    • Approximately four months, from around November to the end of February. Refer to the ISTF Schedule for the current year's specific dates.
  31. How will we know what the judges will expect of their final project website?
    • You should refer to the guidelines (according to grade level) for final project website content and format requirements: Elementary (grades 3-5), Middle (grades 6-9), or High (grades 10-12).
  32. Can my students use Geocities, Tripod, or some other free web-builder to host their final project websites?
    • This method is obviously not a preferred option, as the pop-up advertisements adversely impact the patience of most judges.
  33. What are the National Critical Technologies (NCTs)?