First, one goal of the mentor meeting with the team is to help them be more aware of
what is involved in producing a product. The majority of the questions are
not in any one area, but represent a litany of thought that leads the team
from the beginning of the project to the end of the project, including
identifying "milestones" or stages. This awareness, then, helps them
understand the overall "project picture" and where they have to management
time, resources, and products.
Second, another goal of meeting with the team is to specifically help them
realize the problem that they were proposing to use as a Challenge project.
In particular, to find those problems that were undoable and help them
understand that they needed to refocus their problem and choose another one.
1) Tell me what your project is.
2) Let me see if I can write this down.
3) Let me see if I can describe this project in terms of steps, with
the idea that all of the steps together will produce the product.
4) Can you tell me what the "answer" to the project will look like?
5) Can you draw me a picture of what you project looks like?
6) Can you draw me a picture of what the result of your project will
7) Describe your Challenge poster to me.
8) How will you know when you have an "answer"?
9) How will you know when you're finished?
10) Can you guess at what the hardest part of the project is going to be?
11) Do you know if this is a problem that has been addressed by someone
else? (industry, scientist, college, public group, ...)
12) Do you know where to find information about this problem?
13) Can you identify what important pieces of information you will need
to know to answer your problem?
14) Tell me about how you are going to go about finding the answer to
15) Is your "answer" in terms of a number, a bunch of numbers, a graph
(2D or 3D), a statement, a series of pictures, or what?
16) Have you discussed the problem with your teacher, coach, advisor?
17) What will your computer code look like to answer this problem?
Can you imagine what it will look like?
18) Tell me what the input to your code will look like. Tell me what
the output of your code will look like.
19) How big do you imagine that your code will be (number of lines;
number of modules)?
20) Do you know who to go to to get help?
21) Are you aware of how to search on the web? find information at the
Library? contact a University professor?
22) Can you sketch out the sequence of actions that will take your
problem statement and provide a solution?
23) What do you think a picture of your computer code would look like?
24) Imagine that you're writing your final report. What does it look
like? What're the major things that you will be saying, and why
should I believe you if I was a judge?
25) Have you thought about your project in terms of presenting the
results to the panel of judges?
25.1) How do you think that you would know that your answer is right?
25.2) How do you think that you would know that your answer is wrong?
25.3) How do you think that you would be able to tell the difference?
25.4) Can you imagine what a "wrong answer" would look like?
25.5) Describe to me some ways of doing things that would lead to a
25.6) Tell me what things might happen in finding a solution for your
problem that would tell you that you're working too hard, or
working the wrong way, or working the wrong problem?
25.7) Tell me what things would tell you that you're working OK?
25.8) Are there steps along the way in your project where you could
actually tell if you're on the right track or not?
25.9) What are some simple "tests" for your computer code, to see if
it's doing what you think that it's doing? (this is my lecture
on programming style)
One specific area is how to focus the problem
26) Is this problem doable, by you, by April? That is, can we guess
at how much time it will take to learn the tools, the knowledge,
and the problem, divide it up into stages, and then answer each
stage? Then add in the writing of the report and the preparation
of a poster. Are you capable of learning the knowledge and tools
27) Is there a way to make the problem easier without losing the
content (this is my lecture on how to make simplifying assumptions)?
28) Is there anything that you can do in the beginning that will make
the problem easier to solve?
29) Is there a part of this problem that would be as interesting, but
would require a lot less work?
30) Imagine a simple answer to this problem. Is there a way to change
the question so that it provides that simple an answer?
If the problem is unworkable
31) Well, gee, is there anything else that you guys are interested in?