How to Make a Virtual Science Fair
Due to COVID-19, most of BC’s Regional Science Fairs had to be cancelled. To support the ~1500 students who were going to participate in these Regional Science Fairs, we wanted to create an online science fair where they can connect with mentors and other inquisitive students; be recognized for their work; and gain valuable skills and advice. Our supporters have generously donated prizes and awards to encourage the students to continue their ventures in Science, Technology, Engineering, Digital arts and design, and Mathematics (STEAM). This Virtual Science Fair will facilitate the learning and development of students, and provide prizes and awards to encourage the students’ curiosity.
A Virtual Science Fair that facilitates project interviews between students and mentors is feasible if designed well, and we only need one part-time resource to be able to complete this project.[author’s note: Innovation-type projects either work or do not work. Iterative guesses for what ‘good design’ means and then rapid prototyping and measuring results that then feed back into your next guess for what ‘good design’ means…and over, and over, and over again, means you create and recreate your hypothesis again and again throughout the project. The above hypothesis is grossly oversimplified. I’m sorry.]
- Draft a plan for how a virtual science fair might work
- Send the draft to the Regional Science Fairs and teachers, and collect their feedback
- Revise the BCVSF plan based on Regional Science Fair and teacher feedback. Repeat throughout this project, whenever new information is uncovered. These are unprecedented times…
- Post an update on the SFFBC site to tease everyone with the upcoming BC/Yukon Virtual Science Fair
- Submit plan to lawyers for necessary consent forms from the students’ parent/ legal guardian
ON THE WEBSITE
- Come up with a clever website URL
- Purchase the site domain and hosting services on a Canadian server. Because we are collecting data from minors, we need all student data submissions to be hosted on Canadian servers.
- Design a logo. Repeat x 3 times as the fair strategy changed and I got better with using design programs with time.
A huge thank you to Robert Young (GVRSF Committee Member) for allowing us to repurpose your prior design!
- Pick a site theme to work with. Repeat x 7 times as the look didn’t fit the changing strategy, or the theme kept on crashing and/or incompatibility with specific widgets was encountered.
- Lock the website behind a ‘Coming Soon’ page
- Create the Project Submission Form and complain about how long it needs to be, all while making it longer. Test it x 7 times.
- Create the Contact Form and hope that no one has any questions that weren’t already answered in the FAQs
- Create the Mentor page and hope that no one notices that this is the only Google Form on the website. We can use a Google Form for this as there’s no need to keep adult data on a Canadian server, and Google Forms are so easy to use.
- Ask friends to login and
crash the sitelook for bugs
- Find & add Project Resources
- Create the Project Feedback form and Awards form
ON GETTING THE WORD OUT
- Tell all the Regional Science Fairs and Youth Science Canada
- Post it on our social media channels and the Science Fair Foundation of BC website
- Tell all the students who have emailed to ask us directly
- Tell all the supporters of the Science Fair Foundation of BC, our Provincial Awards, and our annual STEMCELL Science Fair Fun Run
- Schedule social media posts, highlight prizes and awards and mentorship
- Send out a press release to media partners
- Send out inquiries to local businesses within each of the 14 Regions to ask if they would like to donate prizes to participating students in their region.
- Ask friends and contacts to sign up as Mentors
ON RECEIVING PROJECT SUBMISSIONS
- Review submissions
- Send consent forms to parents/legal guardians and teachers and specify deadline for receiving the forms back [will be able to set this as an to-upload file on the project submission form, once the forms are ready from the lawyers]
- Find out that Docusign support is difficult to work with
- The consent form for parents could be done by mass-upload of emails to send the form to, without de-duplication of emails because some parents had multiple children signed up for the fair…excellent!
- The consent form for teachers had to be manually added and triple-checked before sending as it contained student and project names, since most teachers had more than one student to sign for.
- As consent forms come in, upload project submissions to locked project portal on website
- Attach links for any optional project submission attachments/files/URLs to the project’s mentors for their review
- Lock each project submission with the same clever password
- Add feedback form at the end of each project page
- After Mentor registration closes, match mentors to projects and provide mentors with the login to the project portal [this critical step took the longest, the matching of mentors to students]
ON PROJECT INTERVIEWS AND FEEDBACK
- Schedule Project Interviews between mentors and students for projects that have opted in to Project Interviews via video or tele-conference. Ideally: Group as many Project Interviews within the same time slot as possible, to use Breakout rooms in Zoom.
- Reality: taught mentors how to use Calendly and scheduled 300+ meetings (30min each) between students and the mentor, reminding both parties that 1) the student’s parent/guardian or teacher had to be present, and 2) do not go overtime or else the next meeting may be impacted.
- Schedule Mentor Briefing sessions – only mentors who attend a Mentor Briefing will be invited to the Project Interviews. Ideally: a Chief Judge from a Regional Science Fair will provide instruction on how to interact with students of various grade levels, how to provide feedback on a project, and the BCVSF will answer any other questions that may come up.
- Run the Project Interviews. Auto-record all the Project Interviews for security purposes.
- Collect Project Feedback and Award Forms from the Mentors
- Review Project Feedback and Award Forms, assign awards by eligibility and region
- Email anonymized Project Feedback to students/parents/teachers along with next steps for their awards or prizes if applicable, add feedback form for the fair.
- Email thank-yous to mentors (and ask for one last feedback form to be completed, for the fair)!! And supporters/sponsors/volunteers –> wrap up well!!
ON CLOSING CEREMONIES AND PUBLIC VIEWING
- Invite speakers and activities for the Virtual Closing Ceremonies, receive pre-recorded videos
- Prepare a randomized list of student names for the prize draw
- Prepare list of award recipients
- Prepare MC script
- Finalize streaming platform and test, test, test under many conditions…
- Invite all students, mentors, supporters, and media to join the Virtual Closing Ceremonies
- Host the Virtual Closing Ceremonies
- Send out feedback form for students and mentors
- Release projects with Publication Consent to be viewable by the public on connectingideas.ca, delete student files from the server
- Connect with select projects for interviews and media promotions
Observations and Analyses:
It’s not over yet, but here are some early ones:
- We feel particularly bad about not fitting Y into BCVSF, for Yukon to be represented in the acronym
- Less sleep may be directly correlated to more time spent digging into HTML/CSS code to debug the site
Post-BCVSF report: Google Slides[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]