Looking forward by looking back

Between us we’ve been supporting Intel’s science competitions for more than ten years. And this just happens to be the tenth year of the Intel Science Talent Search.

Every March Intel Science Talent Search brings together the top 40 high school seniors – accomplished scientists in their own right – for a week of activities in Washington D.C. Besides several days of intense judging, the students get a whirlwind experience in our nation’s capital – including presenting their projects to the public at the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and meeting with elected officials and top scientists at federal agencies.

It’s serious stuff, but during the week the students develop a camaraderie that’s kind of like going to summer camp. They’ll be friends for life. Some of them will probably collaborate professionally together. After all they’re a special group. Just 40 a year, 400 since Intel started sponsoring the Science Talent Search; 2,000 in the last 20 years…you get the idea. And we get to not only sit in and watch them, but actually talk to them. There are still kids who we can recall by project and research if not by name. They’re that amazing. Here’s what the week looked like in 2007.

Intel just renewed its sponsorship of STS, which is run by the non-profit organization Society for Science and the Public. Sure, one of the objectives is to get engineers into the workforce pipeline and hope that some of them end up helping Intel to continue “leaping ahead” with its technology. But we’re also doing this because it’s important to recognize – at the high school level – the kids who will be leading and revolutionizing, really revolutionizing the world with their discoveries and scientific contributions.

This got us to thinking about some of the finalists that we’ve met over the years. These are some of the first place finishers that have been most memorablefor us over years past:

  • Mason Hedberg, whose research was motivated by his grandmother’s bout with cancer. (And one of this year’s finalists Benjamin Lu shares a similar motivation – his father is recovering from thyroid cancer.)

  • David Vigliarolo Bauer, who was accompanied by his mother and his high school adviser – a native of African descent dressed in traditional garb – and who together with them shed tears of joy upon winning first place. His project was timely for being a resident of New York City – a new sensor for rapidly detecting and evaluating individual exposure to biochemical agents.

  • Ryan Patterson who is hard to forget. He came up with a handheld digital display connected to a glove (we think it was a golf glove) that translated American Sign Language from the glove to the digital display. Ryan finished first at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose in 2001. Then he went on to take first place @ Intel STS in 2002.

  • Mary Masterman who just last year developed an inexpensive spectrometer for measuring molecules – using an SLR camera and other off the shelf parts. This for a device that usually costs upwards of $100,000. For her efforts she won first place and was featured on ABC News with Charlie Gibson as the “Person of the Week.”

Already we’ve gotten an idea of what some of this year’s students are like. A couple of them – Jeremy Blum and Lauren Lisann provide insights in this podcast; others speak about developing new energy technologies, such as one that harnesses the electrical energy of microbes, in this podcast. There are just a couple of previews of what this year’s finalists will present and be judged on.

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We’ll bring you more of their stories in the coming days.

One Response to Looking forward by looking back

  1. Holly says:

    Its amazing to bring together such brillant kids. The one who is doing research on Cancer…I always thought it would be someone from our younger generation who would find a cure… mason might be that person! Awesome venture intel!