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Middle School

Approximately two hundred and ninety-three middle school student participants in the 2004-2005 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:

  • Almost 100% participated in the ISTF for the first time.
  • 64% said their teachers explained what they needed to know while 28% were responsible for reading the guidelines and asking questions about the program.
  • Most had a technology, computers or science teacher leading the way. 
  • 85% began work on their ISTF projects during September and October.
  • 20% determined their own ISTF teams.
  • 33% said their teachers grouped the teams.
  • 36% said they selected teams based on topic choice.

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Middle school respondents did the following in preparation for the ISTF:

  • 94% decided on a problem and project focus.
  • 90% searched for a technical advisor.
  • 88% read the Content Guidelines for the middle school grade level.
  • 88% discussed what each member of the team would do.
  • 85% discussed the ISTF Program with their teacher.
  • 81% became familiar with the ISTF website.

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Working on the ISTF Project

These are teaming problems middle school respondents encountered:

  • 57% said communicating with their technical advisor.
  • 53% identified locating useful information on the Internet.
  • 47% said seeing that each person did his/her work.
  • 34% identified deciding who would do what.
  • 32% said finding time to work together.
  • 32% said agreeing on the project focus.

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Many student teams experience difficulties when attempting to decide on a topic. Forty-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:

  • 35% would investigate/research first and then decide on a topic.
  • 34% would not change anything about the way they chose the topic.
  • 26% would decide based on the amount of information available.
  • 25% would decide on a project focus based on their experience with/knowledge of the topic.

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

  • 23% had too many other school obligations.
  • 17% reported their teachers and/or technical advisors were unavailable when needed.
  • 14% did not meet often enough or did not have enough time.

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Completing the ISTF Project

About 96% of the middle school respondents received a grade for their work. But grading pressure did not adversely affect student contentment, as 79% were mostly or completely satisfied with their final product.

Twenty-seven percent said they would participate in the ISTF again, 37% said maybe they would and 36% said no. Middle school respondents who expressed willingness to compete again knew what they would do differently:

  • 41% would choose a different topic.
  • 37% would start earlier.
  • 37% would do more preliminary research on possible projects.
  • 30% would work harder to find a focus for their project.
  • 22% would divide up the tasks so everyone had a chance to work on all parts of the ISTF.

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About 41% deemed the ISTF an interesting activity, and 69% deemed it a great learning experience. Students explained the ISTF's impact on them:

  • 59% learned time management skills.
  • 56% learned how to work as part of a team.
  • 47% became aware of the difficulty in finding useful Internet information.
  • 39% became aware of the importance of a specific technical field.
  • 18% learned that there are interesting careers in science and technology.
    • 8% said their participation may lead them to consider a possible career in science or technology.
    • 50% were already considering such careers.
    • 41% said they were not considering such careers.

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