I’ll start by thanking eCYBERMISSION for the opportunity to contribute to their blog. Now, a little something about myself: I work for the U.S. Army and I have been a Virtual Judge for eCYBERMISSION for seven years. I am originally from San Diego, California, and I have a B.S. and an M.S. in physics and a PhD in materials science. Science has always excited me, even from an early age, and I am lucky to be in a job where I still get to do science and have a positive impact on people.
It was my early interest in science that motivated me to try to help others discover science or maintain an enthusiasm for it. I searched around at work to try to find a program I could volunteer for and discovered the U.S. Army sponsored eCYBERMISSION. I like the program because it gets students interested in science in a hands-on sort of way. When you get to think about a problem and come up with a solution that you can test and hold, that is where enthusiasm is born; it makes science real. It is my hope that students will discover that science is more than facts and figures in a book. I keep returning as a Virtual Judge because each year I see a handful of students really shine and those wonderful Mission Folders keep me going through the submissions that come in.
I have a hunch that some of you reading this might wonder what Virtual Judges look for in a Mission Folder, so I will list a couple of things for you to think about. The first few items to think about are actually very easy to do but an amazingly large number of students just don’t do them.
First, spell check all of your work. A lack of attention in your written report makes us wonder if there was an equal lack of attention when you executed your project. Make sure that your Team Advisor is helping you read your submission before you submit it. They can point out things that you may have missed. Next, please do not do your project at the last minute before the deadline. We can tell immediately when this happens and it will affect your score.
My next set of suggestions is more in the way of understanding how science works. Think your problem through and brainstorm several solutions with your teammates. Look at the pros and cons of each suggestion. As you begin to do your experiment, record everything you do. Work in a systematic, step-by-step fashion. Think about all the possible reasons of why you got those particular results and address each of those possibilities. Don’t be afraid to try something that sounds strange or weird; one of the main strengths you have is the ability to dream up some incredible things. Use your imagination and your enthusiasm and I’m sure you will turn in a great project!
I hope this helps you as you start your projects for this year. I look forward to reading them. Good luck!
-Virtual Judge Greg Fischer