Competitors will descend upon Atlanta this week for an event of Olympic proportions: the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Instead of bobsleds and basketballs, entrants may have trained with beakers and Bunsen burners, and now will gather to flex their mental muscles at the world’s largest high-school science competition.
Now in its 58th year, the fair brings together more than 1,500 students, as well as teachers, scientists, science communicators and business and government leaders from around the world. It is the final event for an international network of more than 500 science fairs for ninth- through 12th-graders. After a week of showcasing their projects, interviewing with judges and attending talks and events, three students will take home the gold: $50,000 scholarships. All told, $4 million in scholarships, tuition grants and scientific trips and equipment will be awarded, including three tickets to a youth science seminar in Stockholm, Sweden, that includes an evening at the Nobel Prize ceremonies.
Categories include animal sciences, biochemistry, energy and transportation, earth sciences, engineering, medicine and health, microbiology and mathematics. Some students have been working on their projects for months or years; about one-third of the students are working in teams.
“Projects presented at the Intel ISEF demonstrate how the next generation is capable of rising to the great global challenges of our time. Their research demonstrates profound curiosity, intelligence and discipline,” says Elizabeth Marincola, president of Society for Science & the Public, which runs the competition and publishes Science News. “The economic health of any developed country depends on its investment in science and technology, and we are proud to reward and celebrate the contributions of these talented young scientists to our common future.”
More than 1,200 science, engineering and industry professionals will judge the projects. The week also includes workshops for teachers and others interested in hosting science fairs or honing their science communications skills.
Since 1997 Intel Corp. has partnered with Society for Science & the Public in sponsoring the fair. Agilent Technologies is presenting sponsor this year.