STC at the ISEF--broadly on-topic

Subject: STC at the ISEF--broadly on-topic
From: Daniel Wise <danwise -at- MINDSPRING -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 18 May 1998 23:38:59 -0500


I have just returned from getting my annual fix. After reading the
newspapers and hearing the radio and TV news for 51 weeks, it is easy to
become convinced that the youth of today are all uzi-carrying, dope-dealing,
Satanist-Sadists who are bent on self-destruction. That is why I volunteer
to represent STC at the International Science and Engineering Fair.

STC presents three awards for written reports, three for visual displays,
and one for overall excellence in the team category (new award this year).
This year's competition was held in Ft. Worth, TX, with 944 projects being
displayed by 1122 participants.

It is uplifting to see the quality of the work done by some of these
youngsters, especially those who are using English as a second language. It
is also refreshing to see technical reporting and documentation that
generally has nothing whatsoever to do with computers or software. There
are, however, some projects in which the candidate has written software and
has prepared some kind of documentation. This year we began to see a few
Web pages, although they were generally little more than a dump of the
hard-copy report rather than something designed and chunked specifically for
screen display.

We also saw an expansion of the use of PCs and laptops for multimedia
presentations and some interactive presentations. We can only suppose that
we are but a short step away from having to consider another set of awards
for excellence in Web-page design and/or on-line presentations.

It was a bit disheartening to talk to some of the participants and learn
that their local/regional fairs prohibited them from having a written
report; everything had to be on the display boards. Consequently, some of
the displays looked like poorly shingled roofs because they were so covered
with multiple sheets explaining hypothesis, method, materials, procedures,
results, conclusions, and recommendations for future work.

But, on the brighter side, this very prohibition may well be the stimulus
that causes an increase in Web usage and on-line presentations.

To stitch this discussion to another thread, on the local news here in
Birmingham this past weekend, there was a story about University of Alabama
graduation ceremonies and the job prospects for the new grads. One of the
university placement reps commented that employers were seeking graduates
with not only solid technical backgrounds, but also good communication
skills and well developed people skills.

Gee, does that sound like a TW or what?

And there is something we can all do to support future fairs. We can get
involved with fairs at the local level as judges. Where there is an STC
chapter or a chapter of another society in the communication field, the
computer field, or any other field that is appropriate to the fairs, we can
volunteer to work on the fair organizing committee and also as mentors our
respective groups. We can work to promote the principles of good
communication in these fairs, possibly by offering training sessions in
schools, if such activity is permitted.

At a time when the field of technical communication is booming and competent
communicators seem to be in short supply, we need to give back a little
something to nurture the next generation of potential communicators. Who
knows, they might be working in the next cube in a few years.

As I say, seeing how well these young people handle the tools of
communication, whether it is in print or on line, serves as my annual
reality check and my uplifting fix. But it is also a reminder that there is
a lot of work that can be done to help make future fairs even better.

As I stated in the subject line to this message, these comments are broadly
on-topic. I asked Eric if it would be OK to post some comments, and I hope
I have hit the tenor I said I would strive for. If not, my apologies to the

Dan Wise
danwise -at- mindspring -dot- com

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