As an Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF) technical advisor, you have a unique opportunity to interact with today's younger students. You will be able to exchange ideas with them that may bring a whole new perspective to their understanding of a particular area of science or engineering. The technical advisor not only answers students' questions, he or she also anticipates their needs and poses questions that will make each team member consider new or alternate possibilities for solving a problem.

As a technical advisor, you give direction to the team and you offer suggestions and advice that will help propel the team to develop logical, scientific thought.

The students probably do not have any prior experience working with experts. They may initially be wary of interacting with you because you are a professional. Your participation will set the tone for how the students integrate you into the team. Your expertise will help them develop better skills in many areas including:

  • Communication – Keep the lines of communication open with the team. 

    • This will help overcome the initial hesitation students may have about working with a professional. 

    • If you sense they are reluctant to contact you, take the first step and send them e-mails. 

    • This usually results in a team requesting greater participation on the part of its technical advisor.

  • Social skills – This may be the first opportunity students have had to interact with a professional scientist or engineer. 

    • Treat them with respect and openness. 

    • Expect the same treatment from the team.

  • Research – You can offer your team ideas and information on relevant website addresses that will help them to perform valid research. This will also help them begin to develop research skills of their own.

  • Learning – Your input and advice will help students learn to understand and apply the information they find in their research.

  • Discipline – Although you may be hundreds of miles from the site where students are working, your input can emphasize the need to stay focused and to discuss the project regularly, both as a team and with you online.

We are asking technical advisors to be proactive. This mentoring should not be a burden to you nor should it be boring. It often is a great deal of fun since students have a special spin on today's technology. The successful technical advisor helps the students develop and follow the plan they have outlined, suggests adjustments when necessary, and sees the team through to its ultimate goal—the creation of their final project website.