Judges’ Comments: Theme-based sections 2013 (NB. Most issues mentioned in past years’ comments are still relevant)
This year’s theme “Australian Science Through The Ages” has been very popular with teachers as it allowed integration of science outcomes (especially Science As A Human Endeavour) and history outcomes, as well as literacy, art and IT skills. I doubt whether this degree of research relating to ‘Science As a Human Endeavour’ would’ve been done without this competition! Many students accessed Internet sites on timelines of Australian inventions, and they would’ve been amazed at the breadth and depth of inventions and discoveries attributed to Australians.
Two main issues needed to be addressed though:
What can be considered a Scientific Discovery/advancement/invention, and what is more correctly a technical/design/invention? The notepad, ute, surf life-saving reel, HIlls Hoist, wine cask, Esky etc probably fall more into the latter. Perhaps the delineation between Science and Design is blurred, but you can simply ask the students which would they consider the more significant advancement? Surely then the Bionic Ear, Penicillin, Astrophysics, Gene shears, Pacemaker, WiFi, Australian Paeleontology, etc are more worthy of study in science.
Students will often choose a soft science option if given free choice. To be a learning situation, they should really choose a topic that sounds interesting to them, but they know very little about. Researching and learning about eg. penicillin, its discovery, testing and operation, is far more substantial than finding photos of utes through the ages.
Having then researched their chosen topic, they need to crystallise the main points which they want to highlight in their entry. A computer presentation will allow them the opportunity to include more information,but in all sections , they should address the what, who and when, and reduce this to single words or short phrases rather than paragraphs. Not just “Science is great. Now we’ve got WiFi)
Researching, planning and checking before physically creating their entry is essential. Incorrect spelling can be so distracting for the viewer and the impact is lost.
Specific section comments (in addition to similar issues raised in past Judges Comments covering points made every year! Many previous Judges reports are still on our website and well-worth reading again)
The best entries were bold, succinct in message, and focused on a significant scientific advancement by Australian scientists, with both the science and Australia message obvious.
A TSTS poster should not be a project on a poster sheet. From your research, you must decide what are the salient points you’ve learned and graphically highlight these. Also, the poster should not be just an advertisement for an invention (eg.” HIlls Hoist is best”).
An annual plea…PLEASE ensure students stick to the size criterion (max. A2).
Teachers can help students refine their poster design by asking: How does your topic relate to the theme? What is the main focus of your concept? How can you reduce that information to just a few words? It is also best for teachers to encourage their students to research different aspects of the topic, and then allow the students to share their learning. A whole set of entries on the exact same issue are difficult for the judges to differentiate between, and the students who miss out on a prize might feel disappointed and wonder why…but we can’t give everyone a prize!
Again, the significance of the science concept was often the deciding factor. Key words science and Australia should be reinforced.
Bad spelling, grammar and punctuation distract so much from the message. PLEASE ensure work is carefully proof-read.
When printing over a background graphic, ensure the colour contrast is good. If it is not easily read, the impact is lost. Remember also the size criterion: one A4 sheet, single-sided.
As for posters, topic must be significant, text minimal, with layout precise and clean (sometimes students don’t cut out computer-generated text with straight lines! Reduces impact greatly.
Most entries were basic Power Points ( or variations done with Prezi or Padlet), a few interactive websites and some video formats. Regardless of software used, the impact is gained by using the limits of the technology to support and enhance the message…NOT to simply show how many different tricks you can do with the software. Any different effects should be introduced to aid the learning by the viewer by engaging their interest, and emphasizing specific points, and care should be taken NOT to overwhelm the viewer with over-dramatic transitions, text which is leaping/inverting/or dropping in one letter at a time etc, or strong music which makes reading difficult. Especially at the secondary level, the judges expect appropriate use of colour, non-lyrical music or sound/voice-over, graphics and short/point form text rather than large uninteresting slabs of information. As for the other theme-based sections, the science concept chosen should be a significant one , and some of the actual science background should be explained, not just the historical facts.
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