Hot Competition: Students display winning projects

In Albuquerque, visitors must decide between red and green chilies, but last week, a different kind of spice heated up the town. At the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), more than 1,500 high school students from 51 countries displayed projects with tongue-tingling titles.

BEAMING TEENS. Dayan Li, Philip Streich, and Dmitry Vaintrob (left to right) nab the top prizes at the International Science and Engineering Fair. Intel Corp.

Students competed for more than $4 million in scholarship money, computers, trips, and other awards. The big-enchilada prizes went to Dayan Li of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md., Philip Vidal Streich, a home schooled student from Platteville, Wis., and Dmitry Vaintrob of South Eugene High School in Oregon.

Each student won the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and a $50,000 scholarship. Li, 17, found that nitric oxide, which normally inhibits blood vessel growth, stimulates growth in vessels supporting tumors if a protein called thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) is present. That calls into question the use of cancer drugs that boost TSP1.

Streich, 16, proved that carbon nanotubes are soluble in methyl-2-pyrrolidone, contradicting a general assumption that no solvent would dissolve nanotubes. The discovery, he says, could lead to “revolutionary new composite materials” that could be practical for ultralightweight airplanes and bulletproof vests. Vaintrob, 18, found a new way to connect two kinds of descriptions of mathematical shapes, algebraic structures and topological spaces. “I like the fact that [math is] abstract and beautiful and makes sense always,” he says.

Vaintrob also won a trip to the Nobel prize ceremonies in Stockholm this December as part of the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar. Joining him will be George Francis Hotz, 17, of Bergen County Academies in Glen Rock, N.J., and Temple Mu He, 18, of Troy (Mich.) High School. He modeled a binary star system, and Hotz used flashing lights and a spinning screen to create three-dimensional images.

A team from Trium Udom Suksa School in Bangkok-Natnaree Siriwon, 17, Korawich Niyomsatian, 18, and Nathaphon Supokaivanich, 18-won a trip to the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Valencia, Spain, this September. They studied how mimosa leaves fold.

For their research on microlithography, Jacob Charles Loewenstein, 17, of Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway in Cedarhurst, N.Y., and Brienne Ashley Kugler, 18, of Jericho (N.Y.) Senior High School will attend the 11th annual Expo Science International for young scientists in Durban, South Africa, in July.

A $5,000 scholarship and an Intel laptop went to the strongest competitor in each of 17 categories. Category winners included Li for cellular and molecular biology; Streich for chemistry; Vaintrob for math; Hotz for electrical and mechanical engineering; He for physics and astronomy; Yihe Dong, 16, of Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Ga., for animal sciences; Mary Martha Ferrari Douglas, 18, of Manhasset (N.Y.) High School for behavioral and social sciences; Mihika Pradhan, 16, of Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School in South Hamilton, Mass., for biochemistry; Raeez Lorgat, 16, of Rondebosch Boys’ High School in Cape Town, South Africa, for computer science; Hannah Louise Wolf, 16, of Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa., for earth and planetary sciences; William Campbell Martin, 18, of Saginaw (Mich.) Arts & Sciences Academy for materials and bioengineering; Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza, 18, of St. John’s College in Johannesburg for energy and transportation; Chan Ka Kin, 18, of Hong Kong Chinese Women’s School for environmental management; Graham William Wakefield Van Schaik, 17, of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., for environmental sciences; Patrick Ming Chen, 17, of Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, for medicine and health sciences; Eric Nelson Delgado, 17, of Bayonne (N.J.) High School for microbiology; and Tanja Kellerman, 18, of Citrusdal (South Africa) High School, for plant sciences.

“The enthusiastic participation of a record-breaking number of students and countries is a reflection of the global embrace of science,” says Elizabeth Marincola, president of Science Service, which publishes Science News and has organized the ISEF since its inception in 1950. Intel is the title sponsor of the competition, and other corporations and organizations contribute support.

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