San Jose hosts 2001 science competition

Ryan Randall Patterson spells out “Science News” with his sign language translator. Gorman

Among the winners: Mariangela Lisanti, Francis Boulva, Ryan Randall Patterson, and Monika Paroder. Gorman

More than 1,200 high school students flocked to the epicenter of high technology last week to present research projects at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Students from nearly 40 countries competed in San Jose, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley, for more than $3 million in prizes. They also experienced a festive week that included a question-and-answer session with a panel of Nobel laureates and a private rock concert.

“Our standard of living depends on one thing,” NASDAQ Vice Chairman Alfred R. Berkeley III told the students while moderating the session with the Nobel winners. “It depends on innovation.”

At the end of the competition, conducted by Science News‘ publisher, Science Service, three students each went home with the top prize of a $50,000 scholarship and a computer.

“I didn’t expect this,” said stunned 17-year-old winner Monika Paroder of New York City. Her biochemistry project examined iodide transport in the body, particularly in the thyroid.

Francis Boulva, 18, from Town of Mount-Royal, Quebec, also earned a top scholarship with his radio astronomy observations and analysis of hydrogen bubbles around a certain type of star.

Ryan Randall Patterson, 17, from Grand Junction, Colo., hit upon the idea for his winning project while watching a deaf person struggle to order food in a restaurant. Patterson won one of the $50,000 scholarships for designing a glove with sensors that detect hand motions of the American Sign Language alphabet and transmit the letters to a display.

Patterson was also one of two students who won a trip to observe the Nobel prize ceremony in Stockholm in December. Mariangela Lisanti, 17, of Westport, Conn., won the other trip. Lisanti’s study of electron transport in microscopic gold wires had already snared her the top prize in the Intel Science Talent Search last March (SN: 3/17/01, p. 165).

Two teams of students also won trips. Edmund Francis Palermo, 17, and James W. Conlon, 16, from Bay Shore, N.Y., found an effective way to blend polymers. They will attend an international science fair in France this July. Amy Ward Tasca of Dakota, Minn., and Brian Matthew Ness of Winona, Minn., both 18, will take their engineering project to a European Union science fair in Norway in September. They experimented with oil from emus as a motor oil additive.

Tasca and Ness also won the award for best team project. That award, as well as the top individual prize in each of 14 categories, includes $5,000 and a computer for each winner. In the behavioral and social sciences category, the top individual award went to Kathy Hsinjung Li, 18, of Plano, Texas; in biochemistry, Li Mei, 17, of Plymouth, Minn.; in botany, Robert Miintzuoh Kao, 17, of Gaithersburg, Md.; in chemistry, Jayanta Fowler Mohanty, 18, of Cumberland, R.I.; in computer science, Yuanchen Zhu, 16, of Shanghai, China; in earth and space sciences, Ulyana N. Horodyskyj, 15, of North Royalton, Ohio; and in engineering, Patterson.

In environmental sciences, Ann Lai, 16, of Beachwood, Ohio, won the top prize; in gerontology, Eugenia Chu, 17, of Martinez, Ga.; in mathematics, Matthew Bryan Satriano, 17, of Oceanside, N.Y.; in medicine and health, John Bennett Ball Korman, 17, of Greer, S.C.; in microbiology, Linda Arnade, 18, of Palm Bay, Fla.; in physics, Lisanti; and in zoology, John David Kelley, 18, of Panama City, Fla.

“Young, scientifically literate adults are a vanishing commodity,” Brian Hackney, San Francisco KRON-TV meteorologist and science editor, told all the competitors. “Really, you have all won by getting this far.”

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