During the ISTF

While the students will be doing the lion's share of the work on Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF) Projects, the teacher is by every definition the Project Facilitator. Your role is essential during this period of the ISTF Program. The following are some of the key areas where your guidance, assistance and intervention will make a significant difference. 


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Communication within the student team
Communication within the student team team is key to producing a competitive project.
Student team members need to communicate on a regular basis to discuss their work. Help them develop a schedule for meetings.
Meeting with your student team(s) regularly is recommended, especially if their project is extra-curricular in nature.
Have a plan in place for handling technical problems (Internet access, computer problems, etc.) and what students should do in your absence.
Communicating with a team's technical advisor(s) is essential
In the past we have advised teams not to overburden their technical advisor with too many e-mails. However, in the evaluation of the ISTF, many technical advisors felt they were not contacted enough.
As soon as a technical advisor is located, the next step is to have him or her setup a technical advisor account. This will enable a team's advisor to participate in the required progress report and the Final Process Evaluation.
Determine how often the technical advisor feels that he or she would be interested in communicating with the team and make sure the team abides by this request. As a rule of thumb, the Office of Special Programs, administrator of the ISTF, has advised practicing professionals that they could be contacted by student teams up to twice per week.
In past-year competitions, some student teams had more than one technical advisor. This is especially noticed at the high school level where teams research a technical application and then try to determine what the business aspects of developing such a project or process entails. Therefore, teams may need scientific expertise in one area; business knowledge in the other.
Communicate with a media specialist / technology coordinator
Keeping the technology expert who will help with developing the website informed is very important for he or she too has time constraints.
This person also needs to know what kind of website is to be built and what types of plug-ins are permitted.
Printing out the Format Guidelines and directing the website expert to the Winners section will give him or her a blueprint of what teams have created in the past.
Communicate with the school's principal.
In some cases, teachers have become involved in the ISTF because their principals have asked them to put together a team.
Last year's evaluations pointed out that if the principal of a school was more involved, the team received more help towards the end of the project.
Communicating with the principal was a good reminder that the team would be adding its project to the school's website.
Additional areas where your direction is important include:
Over half of the students in last year's program indicated they had a difficult time doing research on the Internet. We suggest that students go beyond the search engines that come up when the Internet is first accessed and use sources such as Search Engine Watch. This site provides a host of sources students can choose from, including information on searches that are strictly scientific in nature.
An area of major concern to technical advisors was the inability of student teams to narrow the project focus. Discuss with students the focus of their project and make sure they and their technical advisor share a common vision for the outcome. Help them to be realistic about the scope of what they can accomplish within the timeframe of the ISTF.
Finding a technical advisor can be difficult. Be sure the teams looking for technical advisors have written a concise and to-the-point explanation of the project they are working on and the technical application they will be researching. Until mid-November, students may contact possible technical advisors by telephone, mail, e-mail or in person. After mid-November, all contact must be done by e-mail. Once a technical advisor has been located, remind the teams frequently to contact him or her with questions, ideas, and requests for assistance.
In past years, the ISTF staff evaluated how student teams managed the research information they collected for the first time. It was evenly divided between teams that printed off information and shared it with teammates and teams that e-mailed information between team members. There were a couple of teams that had developed a central depository that each team member could access to store and view information. It is advised that whatever method is used, all members are aware of the procedure and there is a back-up for the potential loss of data.
Teams may need timelines to help them stay on track. Using the ISTF Schedule, you may want to help your teams devise such a timeline so that everyone is clear about how their projects are progressing.
During the year, the Office of Special Programs, administrator of the ISTF, asks that teams including students, teachers and technical advisors complete an on-line Progress Report. This evaluation helps us to determine which teams may need help, whether teams are working on the same topic they began with or if teams have dropped out of the competition.
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