This page mostly contains teachers' commentary from responses to ISTF Final Process Evaluation questions concerning the
preparation for, work on, and
completion of their project participation.
Preparing for the ISTF Project
Teachers explained how they found out about the
ISTF, their reasons for entering student teams, and
their initial concerns:
Last year our school entered one team. Our goal last
year was to complete the project and learn about the
process. This year we had three teams and two of them
finished and entered their projects.
Another science teacher told me about it.
Approached by students.
I think it allows students experience how involved
research is. They donít fully understand this with
classroom labs. It also gives them a chance to develop
their skills of working with others toward completing a
common goal which is necessary no matter what is in
their future. They can experience these things by
studying a topic that they are interested in.
Our school requires a competitive science project to
be completed outside of class for honors level students.
They have competed in the International Science and
engineering Fair in recent years and we felt that
students were not getting enough experience completing
background research for their projects. After exploring
several options, we decided upon the ISTF as a vehicle
to learning about background research.
I am really interested as a science teacher for the
new directions in science fair projects for middle
school students. I really appreciate the fact that they
can work in teams and that all team members can be
recognized for their efforts.
Never having participating in the ISTF before, my
concerns were about 1) students reception to the
competition, 2) ability to find technical advisors, 3)
students ability to chose appropriate projects and 4)how
to build good websites.
Being able to locate technical advisors; being able
to have the teams engaged until the completion of the
Time, we have a year end testing in which we must
cover a certain curriculum. The students' graduation
status depends on passing a certain number of these
Can the students sustain interest long enough to
complete such an extensive project? Will we get enough
support from the technical advisor, because I am not a
Although the majority of teachers said the
teacher training guide and web site were informative,
some said these resources were not helpful:
Yes - the guide is clear but nothing beats just
All relevant information was provided on the website
and the fact that you could get visual copies of winning
projects for students to model after.
It was great to refer back to any time the students
asked a question about the process it was spelled out
I really didn't know that there was training. I went
through this from ground zero.
Participating teachers made suggestions as to what
kinds of additional help would be useful.
A list of potential technical advisors would be
helpful. Also a list of judging criteria would be
helpful to me and to my students.
A flowchart of what to do and where to go on the
As a classroom teacher, I wasnít clear whether we
needed to move the solution into a real application. I
would have wanted more guidance in how to do this.
A mentor, someone who has done one of the projects
before who could be reached by phone to talk me through
some of the sections.
Teachers discussed issues regarding topic
selection and refinement:
After we selected our topic, we located the NCT that
matched our problem.
The students were asked to select 3 possible topics
in most of the NCTs, then they were grouped by interest
with the option to change teams if they preferred so.
Some teams were in a little over their heads and had
to adjust. It was information overload. It did however
teach them the importance of focus in a research
project. I very specifically stated several times from
the beginning that the three things that would bring
them down would be focus, communication, slackers. In
the end, most discovered I was right.
I had several teams this year whose initial project
ideas were not original (ie the students came up with an
idea, did some initial research and found that their
project idea had already been developed). I met with
these groups individually and discussed their interests,
problems facing our community etc. With several of the
groups we redid their project MANY times.
Discuss, pose questions, discuss more. This is their
project. I tried to let them make their own discoveries.
I had individual meetings with groups. Also, I
required them to do quite a bit of research which helped
in narrowing down their topic.
Working on the ISTF Project
Teachers explained the benefits of the ISTF
project and the hurdles involved:
Although each of the above was a problem to be
solved, we did not find it too difficult. The most
difficult task was encouraging students to independently
synthesize all the data and information that they were
gathering from the Internet and from technical advisors.
We require this level of biology to complete some
type of science fair project.
The project ask students to use technology and do
research. My class combines English with technology so
the these students are with us all year. I am an English
teacher and my team teacher is a Technology teacher.
Students spend 45 minutes in my class and 45 in his
every day. Together we teach Language Literacy,
Technology Literacy and Visual Literacy. This project is
a great application of all three.
It is important that students be exposed to
technology as it relates to the science curriculum.
Technology makes science education real world for
Teachers discussed the participation of technical
We had 3 teams. One team took the initiative and
searched for an advisor extensively. They had options to
choose from. The other team received a positive reply
from an advisor I suggested them. The third team did not
find a technical advisor. Letters of inquiry were
provided to all teams in the beginning.
I approached the technical advisor. He was someone
who'd volunteered to help in our school science fairs in
The students were excited that a real
scientist/engineer would give them that much attention.
Also, the technical advisor modeled some very valuable
The networking by fifth graders with multiple
technical advisors (adults in the real world who were
engineers, scientists, and computer analyst) was one of
the most valuable educational experiences for the
children and the two educators who sponsored this
Our technical advisor came and worked with us in
class once a week. This was extraordinarily helpful to
us. He was also accessible by email and phone.
Our advisor came into the classroom to discuss with
us our progress and to give advice on how to proceed
with our research.
In retrospect, I believe that teacher monitoring of
technical advisors should be a requirement of ISTF. One
of my groups had a technical advisor who worked with
them regularly and then in the last week asked to be
dissociated with them and advised them to find another
There are many aspects of engineering that I do not
know and having an engineer here to answer the technical
questions was wonderful. He gave them several things to
think about and guidelines to follow to have a
The technical advisor has an interest in the subject.
Her/his role is very important in developing a project
with educational benefits for the students.
I think that technical advisors need to be involved
earlier in the process. Project selection should hinge
more on the advisors who are available, sort of like the
atmosphere in which college level primary investigators
help graduate students to locate thesis projects.
Completing the ISTF Project
Teachers explained the impact of the ISTF on their
Teaming, communication and web site development
skills were the primary lessons learned regarding
student participation. Students also became more aware
of the impact a particular technology had on their
lives. Finally, students became more confident,
proficient at problem solving and doing research via the
Learned to use community resource people to expand
knowledge. Learned to evaluate their work in terms of
complex, established criteria (ISTF guidelines) which
My students have a better perspective of how teamwork
applies in a real world setting. How science and
engineering teamwork really happens.
It truly represented doing and learning through
inquiry. The parameters of the investigation narrowed
while at the same time great depth of understanding
emerged about technology, engineering, science concepts,
This project gives the students a better feel as to
future problem solving that will some day be in their
I feel it is a great challenge for fifth grade
students and setting a goal for them to step up to
should be a priority for all teachers. this is a perfect
opportunity for students to not only learn about science
and technology, but for them to set a goal and feel good
about reaching it.
Teachers who responded provided guidance for a
first-time teacher who is considering having his/her
students participate in the ISTF:
Read through all of the tutorials- even the student and
technical advisor instructions. And do not be afraid to
ask questions of the program director as the projects
An excellent problem solving and a good technique for
using the ''scientific method'' for attacking a problem.
Enter one or two teams at first; keep meeting with the
teams throughout the project and emphasize the
importance in meeting deadlines. Finally, try to find
topics that will be of interest to the majority of the
students, and, to you as well, in case a technical
advisor is not found.
Relax. Revise expectations as necessary. Keep it a
positive learning experience, yet allow the students to
find out that teamwork and learning are not always easy