Advice on Middle Student Program Competition
By Liz Baker
Previous Finalist and two time Semi-finalist
- Remember, this is NOT a Science Fair Contest. This is a communication contest. Do NOT use anything you already wrote for your display board and just cut and paste. You must re-write everything to get the right Voice. I learned that the hard way the only year I did not get to Semi-finals.
- Go for ENTHUSIASM! Make your answers scream out, I LOVE science! and I can't wait to tell you about it!
- Use a much Chattier tone or voice than for your Science Board. Act as if you were talking to a bunch of non-Science people but don't talk down to them because they are not Science people. They are looking for kids who can talk Science in a way that can make anyone understand.
- Every word is gold. Do not waste one. Think of the impact of each verb, each adjective. Is there a better one? Are there unnecessary words that could be cut so you can add more important phrases?
- They do count the number of words so make sure to not cheat and add just one extra. It could get you thrown out of the contest because they watch for who knows and follows rules.
- The short answer questions are as important as the longer ones. Don't treat them lightly. Take just as long to examine each one and make them sing.
- Make them see you as a well-rounded person, not just a Science nerd. They want regular kids. Check off as many things as you can think of that you have done.
- Think of a way to make yourself different from the other 6,000 kids. Make them remember you. Usually this comes across in the longer essay questions. First think of how you would have answered the question normally. Then think of a very new and different approach that still answers the question but might be very unusual. It is worth the time thinking up front before writing.
- I still stay in touch with the other kids who went to DYSYC with me. We all agree that you have to have some kind of "Hook" when you talk about your project. The hook is what catches a person's curiosity and makes your project apply to THEM personally. Take the time to convince them that this project will save their lives someday or applies to their grandkids, or their family dog. Make them care about your project because it means something to them or catches their interest. Some of the projects chosen were not all that great but the kids behind them made them sound like they were wonderful. And they got chosen.
- Plan to spend a long time on this. Write it but don't send it. Look at it cold each weekend until the cut-off date. See what you can cut and replace with stronger words. You have to have time in between to do this objectively.
- Read out loud. If you do this, you will see if your answers will communicate well. Pretend you are on that Science show "Zoom" or one like it. If you would put the viewers to sleep with your description, you will probably put Judge Jake and his pals to sleep as well. They read 6,000 of these things.
- Proofread. Spell & Grammar check. Errors will not be tolerated very well.
- They usually allow you to attach one extra page. The year I got to Finals, I combined a few charts and graphs all on one page. I shrunk them down so they could SEE a bigger picture all combined. But it has to be clear and not too cluttered so don't go overboard. If you can't do that, choose your best graph or chart.