Test Flight: Young scientists earn—and spread—their wings

A century after two brothers from Ohio launched the first powered aircraft, more than 1,200 high school students from 31 countries last week descended on Cleveland in a celebration of science and engineering–and competition for more than $3 million in scholarships and prizes.

WINNING WOMEN. Anila Madiraju (left), Elena Glassman (center), and Lisa Glukhovsky (right) took the top prizes. Feature Photo Service

The youthful competitors in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair filled Cleveland’s convention center with row upon row of custom-made gizmos and colorful posters detailing their research. They described their projects to about 1,000 judges and a greater number of curious visitors, and by week’s end, more than 500 claimed awards.

Many of the students also took in speeches and panel discussions by astronauts and Nobel laureates.

For the first time in the competition’s history, three young women took the top prizes–a $50,000 scholarship plus a high-performance computer. One winner, Elena Leah Glassman, 16, of Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa., developed a method for reading electrical impulses in the brain that could help people with muscular disabilities operate computers.

Lisa Doreen Glukhovsky, 17, of New Milford High School in Connecticut won her top prize for using telescope images to determine the distance from Earth to more than a dozen asteroids that might someday cross the planet’s path. NASA has used Glukhovsky’s data to refine its orbital calculations for those potential celestial threats.

Anila Madiraju, 17, of Marianopolis College in Montreal earned her $50,000 scholarship by showing that it’s possible to kill cancer cells by silencing proteins that inhibit cells from dying at appropriate times.

Madiraju was also one of three students to be awarded a fully paid trip to this December’s Nobel prize ceremonies in Stockholm. The other Nobel-bound competitors are Anant Ramesh Patel, 18, of Astronaut High School in Titusville, Fla., and Ethan James Street, 18, of Winston Churchill High School in Livonia, Mich.

Andrew Gerard Ascione, 18, Aaron David Schulman, 17, and David Edwyn Bennett, 17, all of Broadneck Senior High School in Annapolis, Md., earned a trip to this September’s European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Budapest. There they will again present the software they’ve developed for identifying certain patterns in DNA.

A team effort to explore microbes as fuel producers will send Wesley Ryan Fuller, 18, Blair Elisabeth Kowalinski, 16, and Kyle Anthony Marsland, 18, all from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., to the International Youth Science Exhibition in Moscow, Russia, in July.

Seventeen students each garnered scholarship awards of $5,000 and a high-performance computer–plus $1,000 for their schools and $1,000 for their regional science fair–for projects judged to be best in their field. Winners included Glassman in computer science, Glukhovsky in earth and space sciences, Madiraju in medicine and health, Patel in gerontology, Street in mathematics, and Ascione, Schulman, and Bennett in the team category.

The other best-in-category awards went to Sita Chandrika Palepu, 17, of James Madison High School in Vienna, Va., in the behavioral and social sciences; Samuel James Amberson Howell, 16, of Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy in Michigan in biochemistry; Brian Lee Fisher, 17, of Mandan High School in North Dakota in botany; Denis Alexandrovich Malyshev, 16, of Moscow Chemical Lyceum in Russia in chemistry; Ryan Karnik, 16, of Oregon Episcopal School in Portland in engineering; Katherine Douglas Van Schaik, 16, of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., in the environmental sciences; Jarryd Brandon Levine, 17, of Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, N.Y., in microbiology; Mairead Mary McCloskey, 17, of Loreto College in Coleraine, Ireland, in physics; and Simeon McMillan, 17, of Uniondale High School in New York in zoology.

Intel of Santa Clara, Calif., has been the main sponsor of the fair since 1997. Science Service of Washington, D.C., which publishes Science News, has administered the fair since its inception in 1950.


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