ATLANTA— More than 1,500 young scientists from 51 countries, regions and territories flexed their mental muscles in Atlanta May 12–16 at an event of Olympic proportions. Three students took home the gold.
All together, $4 million in scholarships, tuition grants and scientific trips and equipment were at stake at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high-school science competition.
The top three students won $50,000 scholarships from the Intel Foundation.
Natalie Saranga Omattage of Cleveland, Miss., won for developing a quick and efficient method to screen food for additives and contaminants. Her biosensors were based on the quartz crystal microbalance, which involves instruments that are portable, relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
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Sana Raoof of Muttontown, N.Y., won for her research into the Alexander-Conway polynomial invariant for chord diagrams, work that sheds light on a branch of mathematics known as knot theory. Her research could help resolve biochemical problems, such as identifying tangled DNA and figuring out how proteins fold themselves into their precise shapes.
Yi-Han Su of Taipei, Taiwan, won for a study demonstrating efficient generation of hydrogen from methanol. She created a copper-zinc-aluminum-based catalyst that had a high surface area and low reduction temperature and got more hydrogen from methanol than do current conversion methods.
Other top prizes included the Seaborg Award — an all expense–paid trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in Sweden and entry to the Nobel Prize ceremonies. Three students won Seaborgs: Kaleigh Anne Eichel of Strongsville, Ohio; Dongyoung Kim of Anheung Gangwon, South Korea and Eric Nelson Delgado of Bayonne, N.J. Eichel’s work focused on learning and communication in Comet goldfish, Kim created an algorithm that simulates water flow in three dimensions, and Delgado developed a way to interfere with the pumps bacteria use to expel antibiotics.
Two projects won $25,000 awards from the office machine company Ricoh.
Erica Elizabeth David of Pinedale, Wyo., won for her work designing fences that capture snow for water conservation. Michael Kaergaard Madsen and Jesper Lykke Rasmussen of Vejle, Denmark, won for developing a prototype of a two-cycle engine that pushes unused gas back into the cylinder so that it is burned instead of wasted.
In case the students weren’t starry-eyed enough after their week in Atlanta, through a partnership between Society for Science & the Public and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, the names of the first and second place winners will be submitted to the International Astronomical Union for naming rights of a near-Earth asteroid.
“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.”
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Since 1997 Intel Corp. has partnered with Society for Science & the Public in sponsoring the fair. Agilent Technologies was this year’s presenting sponsor.
“You represent the best and brightest of your countries, communities and your schools,” Brenda Musilli, Intel’s worldwide director of education and president of the Intel Foundation, told ISEF participants at the grand awards ceremony on Friday, May 16. “The world is depending on you to fuel the innovation of tomorrow.”