Can you create an educational website that other schools will find useful? That is the challenge laid down by the Students' and Teachers Educational Materials (STEM) Project. Launched by the Science Museum in 1997 and divided into the categories of adults, over 11 and under 11, the project asks schools to create online educational materials based on a visit to the Science Museum, York's National Railway Museum or Bradford's National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.
"The second year of the project attracted over 300 entries, so it was quite a task whittling them down to a shortlist," says Martin Bazley, the Science Museum's STEM Project co-ordinator.
The sites were judged on four criteria: educational usefulness; design; originality; and getting the message across.
Considering the sites were not created by professionals, the quality of some was impressive. However, many were let down by poor design - common flaws were background colours that obscured the text or confusing navigation systems that lacked a "back" button, on-screen menu or site map. Other sites fell down because they lacked original material, instead relying on clip art and text extracted from other sites.
Judges gave their votes to sites that were easy to navigate, offered lots of original content and used relevant web links. They also awarded points to entries that included good suggestions for schools planning to visit a museum. The entries are all worth a look at the Science Museum's website.
As for the schools, creating the sites was not only educational, it bagged prizes such as notebook computers and colour televisions donated by project sponsor Toshiba and presented at the Science Museum on 22 September.
So if you think you and your students can create a compelling website, what's stopping you from planning your entry for next year's competition?
1999 STEM Project winners
Under 11s 1st Isaac Newton Primary School, Grantham
2nd Eastern Royal School, Wiltshire
3rd Christchurch Primary School, Battersea
1st The Bishops Stortford High School, Hertfordshire
2nd Sutton Grammar School for Boys, Surrey
3rd King James' School, Yorkshire
1st Malton County Primary School, Yorkshire
2nd Kuwait English School, Salmiya, Kuwait
3rd Hounslow Teaching Support Service, west London
For details of STEM call Martin Bazley on 0171 942 4766.