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Students
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Middle School

Approximately two hundred and sixty-seven middle school student participants in the 2003-2004 Internet Science and Technology Fair (ISTF) responded to the Final Process Evaluation questions concerning their preparation for, work on, and completion of their projects. Below is a bulleted summary of the information these students provided. The primary purpose of this report is to present teachers with a collection of students' opinions regarding the program and aid teachers in planning, managing, and finishing participation in an ISTF competition. The secondary goal is to present the same information for students, technical advisors, parents, administrators, and any other interested parties.

* You can also read what the students thought "In Their Own Words."


Preparing for the ISTF Project

Here are some interesting facts about how the middle school respondents got started:

  • 100% participated in the ISTF for the first time.
  • 60% said their teachers explained what they needed to know while 50% were responsible for reading the guidelines and asking questions about the program.
  • Most had a technology, computers or science teacher leading the way. 
  • 90% began work on their ISTF projects during September and October.
  • 46% determined their own ISTF teams.
  • 30.3% said their teachers grouped the teams.
  • 11.6% said they selected teams based on topic choice.

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Middle school respondents ranked their ISTF preparation priorities:

  • 94.8% decided on a problem and project focus.
  • 92.5% read the Content Guidelines for middle school grade levels.
  • 90.6% searched for a technical advisor.
  • 90.6% discussed what each member of the team would do.
  • 88.8% discussed the ISTF Program with their teacher.
  • 83.9% became familiar with the ISTF website.

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Working on the ISTF Project

These are teaming problems middle school respondents encountered:

  • 62.5% said communicating with their technical advisor was their primary problem.
  • 51.3% said seeing that each person did his/her work.
  • 49.4% identified locating useful information on the Internet.
  • 40.4% said agreeing on the project focus.
  • 36.3% identified deciding who would do what.
  • 28.8% said finding time to work together.

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Many student teams experience difficulties when attempting to decide on a topic. Thirty-six percent of the students changed their project focus after researching their project. Reasons included a change in their interests, a non-specific initial project focus, and an infeasible original idea. Respondents imagined participating in the ISTF again and provided some insight into what they would and would not do differently regarding their topic selection:

  • 32.2% wouldn't change anything about the way they chose the topic.
  • 30% would investigate/research first and then decide on a topic.
  • 28.8% would decide on a project focus based on their experience with/knowledge of the topic.

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Fifty-two percent of the middle school respondents had problems managing their time while working on their ISTF Project because:

  • 23.6% reported their teachers and/or technical advisors were unavailable when needed.
  • 21% had too many other school obligations.
  • 12.4% did not meet often enough or did not have enough time.

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Completing the ISTF Project

About 93% of the middle school respondents received a grade for their work. But grading pressure did not adversely affect student contentment, as 85% were mostly or completely satisfied with their final product.

Thirty percent said they would participate in the ISTF again, 38.6% said maybe they would and 30.7% said no. Middle school respondents who expressed willingness to compete again knew what they would do differently:

  • 44.2% would choose a different topic.
  • 43.4% would start earlier.
  • 37.8% would work harder to find a focus for their project.
  • 35.2% would do more preliminary research on possible projects.
  • 28.1% would divide up the tasks so everyone had a chance to work on all parts of the ISTF.

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About 73% deemed the ISTF an interesting activity, and 49.8% deemed it a great learning experience. Students explained the ISTF's impact on them:

  • 57.7% learned time management skills.
  • 56.6% learned how to work as part of a team.
  • 47.6% became aware of the difficulty in finding useful Internet information.
  • 44.2% became aware of the importance of a specific technical field.
  • 38.2% learned that there are interesting careers in science and technology.
    • 9.4% said their participation may lead them to consider a possible career in science or technology.
    • 62.9% were already considering such careers.
    • 27.7% said they were not considering such careers.

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* You can also read what the students thought "In Their Own Words."