29 September 2006

Posters and symposium

Despite that my student won the poster competition for the HESTEC Science Symposium, the symposium this Monday was very disappointing. The big problem was a huge disconnect between the speakers and the audience.

The organizers and speakers had the idea that this was an research symposium geared to fellow academics.

The organizers had masses of high school students carted in to the symposium.

Those poor high school students. They were basically prisoners a our symposium, being forced to listen to talks on the spinach principle: "It's good for you!" The speakers did not speak to things that interested the students, so the students were bored and noisy and constantly getting shushed. It was like being back in a high school auditorium.

The speakers were average at best, and they projected their slides in such a way that they got distorted (too wide).

Then, after the morning talks, it was time for poster viewing. After being advertised there would be free lunch during the poster viewing sessions, organizers decided to tell student poster presenters and faculty that the food wasn't for them. Apparently, it was only for the high school students.

One student got told she had to provide her own mounting board for her poster because the organizers had run out.

The afternoon roundtable was not bad, although the speakers admitted that they were expecting to be talking to university students rather than high school students. And when the moderator said a couple of times they wanted to give students the chance to ask questions, Congressman Hinojosa decided to get up and talk for several minutes instead, cutting into the actual discussion that should characterize roundtables.

Finally, it was time for the students who had won the poster competition to give their talks. And shortly after that started... most of the audience left. The imported high school students had to get back on their buses and leave. So these poor students were giving these talks (the sort you'd hear at national academic conferences) to mostly empty rooms with a few stragglers who probably didn't have the background to understand a lot of what was being said. Heck, I'm an academic, and I didn't understand large chunks of most of the student talks.

The day left me very sad to have seen such a missed opportunity.

But at least my student won a laptop for her poster.

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