Intel Science Talent Search and the State of the Union address

EV029_Boynton_003.JPGThis evening I watched President Obama’s State of the Union address. Sitting in the balcony with the First Lady were Li Boynton – a winner of the 2009 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair – and Gabriela Farfan – a Finalist in the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search.

I got to meet both of these young women last year, along with hundreds of other talented students like them from across the US and around the world.

Identifying and recognizing their talent. Providing the means – with more than $5 million in scholarships – for them to pursue their studies. Inspiring and encouraging them to stick with their dreams of scientific research and technical innovation… There can be no better investment in our future; in their future.

Which is why I had such a GREAT time with yesterday afternoon. Forty phone calls.

“Hi. We have called to let you know that you have been selected to travel to Washington DC as a Finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.”

That opening was greeted variously with, “Ohmigod! Ohmigod!” “You’re kidding!?!” (a favorite), or just stunned silence. One of the 40 high school seniors we called rattled on nervously but quietly about not shrieking in his grandmother’s house: “But I assure you I am screaming inside, and as soon as I hang up and run outside I will be jumping up and down and shrieking like a crazy man!!!”

Have I mentioned that my job can be a lot of fun?

Take a look at the research these students have been working on. My son and father both wear hearing aids – wonderful devices that can drive you crazy – so I was particularly interested in the work Nick Christensen is doing to improve their function. I love the fact that Otana Jakpur became an activist when her research uncovered alarming facts about the effect that air-purifiers can have on asthmatics – specifically on her mother. I am eager to talk to Michael Comuniello about “Science Fair, Science Unfair” to learn what he discovered about science competitions like the ones we sponsor, and how to increase students’ success.

The Intel Science Talent Search Finalists challenge our assumptions about who will be the next generation of scientists. Homecoming King, dancer, football captain, student body president, ping pong player, volunteer, potter – these young people span the spectrum in their interests and hobbies. I can’t wait to meet them. I hope you will get a chance to do so as well – drop by the National Academy of Science in DC on March 13th and I’ll introduce you!

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