Technical Advisors


This page mostly contains technical advisors' 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

Technical advisors discussed their involvement in the ISTF and their concerns:

I was contacted very late in the process, I would like to have been involved much earlier in the project.

Students contacted me based on teacher recommendation - I had helped her class with a previous project.

I've been mentoring students for science fairs and other competitions for almost a decade; your guide would have been adequate to help a beginner, too.

It was difficult getting started with the team because they were already well down the road of developing ideas. Some of which were not technically sound ideas.

Because everything was communicated thru email, I needed the team to be very clear with what they wanted me to do. Often, I would get a request, "Here is our Component 1." I would respond back, what do you want me to do? I ended up just looking them over, giving comments on how I would improve. But a clearly defined request would have gone a long way!

I would have liked several emails telling me about the istf website.

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Working on the ISTF Project

Technical advisors commented on their experience with and opinion of the students' work:

The students had very good ideas on what problems they wanted to solve, but (naturally at that grade level) insufficient technical knowledge to know how best to solve the problem.

The biggest thing I helped the team with was to use information that was based on fact. Don't just say things that could or could not be true, opinions, but base all your theories on facts that you've gathered.

While the students were motivated on the project and I spent literally hours providing them information to read at their technical level, I did feel ultimately that the students did not read and include some of the more pertinent technical information I provided them. Essentially I felt the students continued to hold the project at a high-level description, and not narrow down and emphasize the pertinent low-level technical challenges facing the problem.

My only significant comment is that I felt that the students were not experienced enough to sort through the mass of internet information and pull out the most significant information. 

I was impressed with the work and understanding shown by the students.

I'm not sure the students understood the importance of choosing credible websites for research on the internet. I did stress the point when editing their papers but I didn't get any feedback from them specifically regarding that issue.

I think the e-mail correspondence and the improvements needed that I requested were maybe the most valuable things they learned!

Technical advisors wanted more organization regarding their participation and suggested scheduled e-mails, progress reports, communication with the teacher, and periodic phone calls:

Student teams should involve the technical advisor in each step in developing the project. There may be reluctance to overwhelm the advisor; however, they would learn more and the project would progress faster.

Email should not be the primary mode of communication. Telephone calls (limited to two) should be required in the program, email should only be used to convey URL's, etc.. The schools need to provide speakerphones to the students to have scheduled teleconferences with the technical advisors.

1) Include the teacher in all team/advisor communications.2) Get the students to develop a project plan/schedule that would allow the advisor to plan his/her commitment to the project in advance.

I would have gotten a better feel for what to expect from the students. A teacher is around the students much more regularly and can provide insight into how to best communicate with the students.

My view is that the teacher, just like me, should be an advisor in the project so collaboration with me was not needed. I believe through email the teacher was able to follow the communications.

To better understand the direction she was giving her students. She also dealt with them real time and could better assess their understanding.

Teachers have the important responsibility of making sure the students are communicating effectively with the technical advisors, and help the students learn while mistakes are being made, not after. It would be nice for the ISTF to create an email portal between students and advisors (a pop3 server would be fine), and all emails between students and advisors could be read by teachers to see if points are being missed. 

The students did provide me with a weekly status report on their project. It would have helped for them to have had a specific checklist of activities to be performed. They spent a lot of time reading and interpreting the instructions/guidelines from istf on the web.

I agree. Often I would receive communication at the last minute, not leaving me enough time to respond. Students need to understand that the Tech. Adv. have full time jobs and can't drop everything to review their content.

No. Even with the present update requirements it was difficult to get everyone to find time to answer questions etc. I think the number of review periods is appropriate as is. 

We tried to get input regularly from each student. Some submitted without fail; but some were too afraid of criticism and didn't take full advantage of advisor.

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Completing the ISTF Project

There were mixed reactions from the responding technical advisors regarding the student teams' final project websites:

The team produced an excellent presentation, but it could have been improved by more and better technical content.

Some places because of dark background the information was hard to read. Minor errors could also have been avoided.

More visuals were needed, and the ones they had should have been tied to the text better. 

I think it was fine.

The majority of the technical advisors who responded felt that they advanced their team's technical understanding and indicated they would participate again:

My team needed to look at the technical aspect as more important than they did. They tended to focus on the concept rather than a particular solution. In the future I would ask more questions of the team.

I think the biggest challenge was to get the students to find their own solutions and not give them the answer and the students worked hard at this.

I believe that the team members gained insights into how to approach the development and accessing the status of a new exciting technology. They better understand how technical advancements are based on applied research and development.

The team only asked me to review their content. They did not ask questions or seek guidance on specific issues. I think if they would have asked more specific questions I could have been of more help.

I would feel a greater weight of responsibility the second time, knowing what I know. There is some frustration working with ideas that may not agree with my own approach to the problem. Still, it is making the journey that is important to these kids. Not the pathway or even necessarily the destination.

Yes, I thought it was a good experience for me and I hope for them. I would do some things different next time, and would like that opportunity. 

I found it exciting to work with such an outstanding group of students who asked good questions and showed such enthusiasm for a new technology. 

It would depend on the project and my own time constraints and workload at the time. I had a great time helping them. This is a great program.

It was a very rewarding experience for me. The excitement it generated among the teachers, students and advisors on the team, towards the completion of the project is reward enough. 

If I have the appropriate time to support a team I would do it again. 

I enjoyed working with the team (although my interaction with the team was minimum). It was very refreshing to observe students brainstorming and bringing in new ideas.

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