Science fair opens with flair

Intel ISEF 2010 is in full swing

Last night’s opening ceremonies for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2010—the biggest and baddest science fair around—were wild. It was my first time attending, so I went in expecting some nice speeches about the importance of science and a polite and subdued audience.

I knew I was wrong before I even got through the door. Streams of exuberant, flag-draped students wended into the San Jose State University auditorium holding all sorts of signs, singing traditional songs and cheers and generally making merry. As I filed into the auditorium on the tail of a high-energy Canadian group, the scene brought to mind the Olympics opening ceremony. (Canada, it seems, is a force at both events this year.)

Thumping beats from the Black Eyed Peas, Bollywood’s Sunidhi Chauhan and even Miley Cyrus blared as   people found their seats. The soundtrack was soon replaced by student bands, drummers and dancers.

As the program got underway, the music, lasers and smoke machines faded, but the energy did not. Country representatives from the record-breaking 1,611 participants this year were called up onto the stage in The Price is Right fashion until the stage looked like it was about to crumple under the weight. First time attendees from Morocco and Palestine got a huge welcome.

Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini told the students that he is hopeful they will solve the world’s next big problems. Google cofounder Larry Page repeated one of his favorite sayings: “Have a healthy disregard for the impossible.” Elizabeth Marincola, president of Science News publisher Society for Science & the Public, which administers the fair with the Intel Corporation, pointed out a few of her favorite projects so far (a Rubik’s Cube–solving robot, a study of how bluegrass music affects grammar comprehension and a new kind of fluid-based body armor).  

The mood was through the roof on opening night. Expectations are high, and the rest of the week promises to deliver. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the week.

Laura Sanders

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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