If you want to participate in the rather fab science event I’m A Scientist, Get me Out Of Here I’m afraid you are out of luck – unless you happen to be one of the 100 scientists and 8000 teenagers taking part.

But you can still get a thrill from watching the competition unfold on-line while experiencing science as a spectator sport as you’ve never seen it before! And believe me, this is an event you’re not going to want to miss – especially if you have any interest whatsoever in engaging teenagers in science.

So, if you want to watch the fun, where do you begin?

Here are three ways you might start:

1.  Random dipping

Simply open the home page of I’m A Scientist and dive in

You’ll notice the log-in panel to the right – just ignore this.

From this screen you have two options – pick a Zone to browse (there are twenty of them – ten themed zones, and ten general ones), or check out the latest questions (the panel to the right):

If you select a Zone, you can then explore the questions and discussions going on there (see below).  Each has five scientists, and around 400 teenagers pummeling them with questions.

2.  Zone-watching

Given the craziness of 8000 teenagers quizzing 100 scientists, you might prefer the relative sanity of concentrating on just one Zone.  There are twenty to choose from – ten focus on specific areas, while the remaining ones are science free-for-all’s.  You can either select your Zone of preference from the home page of I’m A Scientist, or from the drop-down menu at the top right of each page:

Once you enter a Zone, you can either view the most recent questions asked in that Zone from its home page, or you can check out what the Zone’s scientists have been up to by clicking on the “Scientists” tab .

This is what the Silicon Zone – my home on I’m A Scientist – looks like:

Check out the latest questions and comments under each scientist to see how they are doing.  Or click on an individual scientist to get the low-down on all their recent activity.

From the Zone Home page (accessed from the the top left tab), you can also explore all the questions students in this Zone have asked.  Simply go over to the “Recent Questions” box on the right of the screen, and select “View all answered questions”.  This brings up the full list of questions for this Zone:

3.  Scientist-rooting

Finally, you can opt to root for one of the 100 scientists taking part in I’m A Scientist.  To track their progress – and see whether they survive the week two “expulsions,” simply click on the scientist’s image from the Zone pages.  This is what my page looks like, but of course you have ninety-nine other worthy souls to root for as well 🙂

And finally, when you do click on a question, this is what you will get:

As scientists respond to the question and students comment on the responses, a conversation builds up, and the fun really begins!

There are plenty of other ways to enjoy I’m A Scientist – live chats between students and scientists are scheduled throughout the two weeks that you should be able to tap into for instance, and you can follow the I’m A Scientist back-stories on Twitter by using the hashtag #IAS2010.  There’s also a Twitter group of scientists involved in the event.

So log on, tune in, and immerse yourselves in one of the most innovative and exciting teen-science events in recent years.

But be warned – once you get hooked, there’s no going back!

Update 6/13/10 – I should have also mentioned that you can pull up a list of answered questions for each scientist from their profiles.  This is my list – similar lists are available for the other contestants.

Andrew Maynard