I’m a Freshman, Not a Star: Five confusing thoughts I had during tjSTAR

Five confusing thoughts I had during tjSTAR


Freshmen prepare for their IBET presentations at tjSTAR.

Madeline Old and Sabria Kazmi

Who do we think we are? Fourteen and fifteen year olds in uncomfortable formal wear performing at tjSTAR with seniors and professionals? Answer: excessively introspective nerds.

1. “Should I rehearse or wing it?”

I felt torn between trying my best to make my presentation decent and using my time a different way. The whole presentation felt like busywork, useful only to practice for (hopefully) completing a legitimate project as a senior. IBET presentations at tjSTAR are a joke. The only people who cares to watch are parents, other freshmen presenting in the same block, and maybe a few friends who signed up because they had nowhere else to go.  During the time leading up to presentations, I pondered whether to prepare or not. I knew my group and I would embarrass ourselves slightly less if we spent extra time refining our powerpoint, but was it really worth it? I had math tests to study for and Facebook posts to read.

2. “Why am I wearing this?”

Formal wear is terrible. Presentations are already scary without the dilemma of what to wear. I wear a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers everyday, so forcing myself into a skirt and uncomfortable shoes just made the whole experience worse. But if I did not look “professional,” the impostor syndrome surrounding presenting at the same event as professionals would have been worse. Once again: who are we to be doing this?

3. “It’s the same topic, again.”

Forcing us all to choose some arbitrary topic doesn’t encourage respect for scientific work. My IBET worked on microbial fuel cells, and almost every group in my class chose from the same three independent variables. It did not feel original, let alone worthy of presenting to an audience. However, because everyone in the class working on the same project it promoted cooperation between groups, and of course it was much easier for the school to provide specialized instruction and materials. If only one group did MFCs, all the materials and skills they require wouldn’t be worth it.

4. “I sound so fake.”

Feigning enthusiasm for a topic seems like lying to the audience about the true potential of our projects. It seemed wrong to pretend our projects were hope for a better future. Whether a student was presenting about the bright energy future a 0.2 volt microbial fuel cell holds or the vital importance of determining where deer are by counting their droppings, none of it has a real, important impact. At least, I don’t think it does. I do acknowledge that there is of course value in everything, and I don’t want to just dismiss a technology because it’s messy and seems useless. Who knows? So once again I can’t decide, was faking passion for my project while presenting the right thing to do?

5. “What should I sign up for?”

Only one block of the day was my own presentation, and the stress did not end there. I signed up pretty far in advance and picking presentations was difficult. I felt like I should support my fellow students, especially since most of the students watching my own presentation would have been stuck there since other things filled up. I was very grateful to the few people who signed up for my group’s presentation to show support, even though I didn’t think IBET presentations were something to be taken seriously. But at the same time, I had the advantage of signing up early, so it made sense to sign up for fun presentations. I had such a struggle deciding between signing up for professional presentations versus showing support for fellow students.,