This page mostly contains student commentary related to the ISTF Final Process Evaluation.
Approximately one hundred and eighty-four high school student participants in the 2003-2004 Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF) responded to questions concerning their preparation for, work on, and completion of their projects. Below is a summary of the information these students provided supplemented by their comments.
High school students explained how they determined what they needed to do, who would participate, and who would assume which roles:
Our group divided the components into team efforts with two people for component one, and three each for component two and three. I was the leader for component three's completion, and also helped the other members in finding a technical advisor, helping also to provide emotional support along the way.
As a team member, my role was to be part of the team. Whatever was needed done or task needing accomplished, as a team member, I stepped forward to accomplish the goal set forth by the team as a whole. Many of my specific tasks I worked on were related to Component Two and the finding of a Technical Advisor.
My role as a team member was to participate in everything that we had to do. I researched, help write components, revised components, and said my input on what the website should look like. I also worked in making the extra things like team profile, emailing technical advisors, and doing a couple of other things. In our group everyone did a piece of everything and then we put it all together to make the final thing, so on most of the stuff no one person did the whole thing by themselves (we all worked together).
High school students took steps to narrow their project focus:
First, we decided that we must have some personal interest in the topic, for we were going to have to research it for the next four months. We decided to do something relating to transportation and airplanes because we were all interested in this field of study. Then, we went to the ISTF listings of possible topics and chose from there. After we chose our topic, we began research to make sure that we could complete the assigned tasks on our topic.
First, we decided that we were interested in a project that dealt with living systems topics. As we went on, we read the descriptions of possible subtopics. From there, we conducted full-scale research trying to narrow down to one final topic and locate a problem on which we could expand.
Our team had difficulty narrowing our focus. We always had ideas, but our teacher said that we should narrow it, which proved to be difficult. We were not entirely sure which direction we wanted to go. We could easily think of broad topics, but not the specifics. Finally our teacher sat down with us, and helped us clarify our thoughts so that we could find the right focus.
High school students discussed teaming and research problems and solutions:
Never agree on a topic that only one person cared about and get the majority to agree upon it.
Decide on something everyone is interested in not something that only one person likes.
We found news articles and college websites to find areas of researching our topic. We then searched those sights for links, works cited, and email addresses of people we could contact.
Lack of information on our specific topic gave us a chance to really make this idea our own, but also made it difficult to know if our idea was credible.
Our field is still being studied and many ideas are rapidly changing so we didn't know what was considered to be current and accurate, and what wasn't.
There is so much information on the internet about our topic that we sometimes got conflicting information. We had to decide which of our sources were most reliable.
We kept journals to write down ideas and progress during class so we would not forget what we had already discussed. We had a group email account where we emailed important links, our work, and questions to each other. Using the email, everyone helped to finalize all guidelines together as a team, and not as high school students splitting up a project so we could get it done quickly. We got all of component one from websites, but the rest was from communication with professionals.
We made a group e-mail account and stored information there so it could be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
We talked on the phone and used Instant Message to communicate.
We talked all the time at school, and called each other to let the others know what was going on.
High school students explained the help their technical advisors provided:
Any question we asked, they both gave us enormous amounts of information and they always asked us to e-mail them back if we did not understand what they had written.
The technical advisor thought our project was being done wrong, and that we should change it throughout the whole process.
High school students explained how satisfied they were with their ISTF final project websites:
I think we did a very thorough job in all aspects of this competition. I am very proud of my team. The website was beyond my expectations.
If I had more time I think it could have been better, and I really would have liked to find a technical advisor.
I feel that if we had worked more as a team instead of individually our overall content and website would be better.
I am very satisfied with our ISTF Project website especially because it was the first time we had ever created a website. It was a great learning experience and i think we did an amazing job.
I think for the first time doing this project, building a website, and working with a group of five our team did very good and I was really surprised that we had all the information needed and completed our project.
The majority of high school respondents reported that they are now or were already considering a technical career:
I had already considered a career in engineering but working on creating and designing a new product lead to believe that a career in engineering would suit me best.
I am pursuing biomedical engineering, because it combines all my interests. I like engineering, creating things, helping people, medicine, and making a difference in the world.
I have a strong idea of what I want to do, but this was a great learning experience.
Although I have competed in two consecutive ISTF competitions, I think that the overall experience not only gets students more involved within the scientific community, but it helps them get used to using the Internet to do research.
I thought it was a little too difficult, but if we had a technical advisor it would be fun.
This project taught me a lot of skills that I did not believe I would learn until at least my senior year of high school.
High school students conveyed their feelings about the ISTF experience:
Once is enough.
The ISTF project provides a good scope of the technological career areas available today, and this helps me explore my interests.
It was more fun and interesting then a regular Science Fair project.
It is a very difficult project to complete and use all possible resources without a technical advisor to help set you in your ways with research and possible solutions.
It is extraordinarily valuable for me it trains me for my future career while getting service hours. Also it will help in collage I will have some background knowledge on the things they will be discussing.
This project was interesting because it makes students research and learn about a field of science in order to propose a new idea or invention. However, if students are involved in other things, it can be a bit hard to complete.
A good way for students to interact with one another and learn without being forced to do so.
This project was stressful at times, but when we were done I realized how much information I had gained in the medical field and technological field.
It disciplined me more than anything else: do not procrastinate, maintain focus, and choose wisely in your team members.
I commend the ISTF staff for their encouragement of teamwork, time management, and communication.
These are noticeable flaws in our society which this has helped to mend.
I believe that the ISTF is very useful for the future, I would be grateful if you expand it for undergraduate students so that not just next year I may participate but also in college. If you have any information about similar fairs at [UCF] for college students please inform me.