As President Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair…”Well Tuesday was also the day we got to call the forty Intel Science Talent Search Finalists who will travel to Washington, DC, in March for the US science fair equivalent of the Super Bowl. “Awesome!!!” seemed to be word of the day. That and, “Thank you SOOO MUCH!!” Of course most people would be excited to learn that they will have the chance to win $100,000 and walk in the footsteps of seven Nobel laureates – and these forty high school students are no exception. And to add to the excitement, we even have a hint of Steelers vs. Packers action this year. Just as the Super Bowl gives the best teams a chance to challenge each other and raise the level of their game, we see a similar phenomenon in the strong challenge by California to New York’s historical strength in Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS). This year for the first time – ever! – New York did not dominate the list of Finalists. Now they still came in an incredibly strong 7 out of 40 – 17.5% – of the Finalists, and a mind-blowing 33% (100 of 300) of the Semi-Finalists. BUT for the first time ever, another state edged them out of the top slot. California showed up with 41 of the Semi-Finalists, and 11 of those – 27.5%! – qualified as Finalists [cue the confetti]. “What’s going on here?” you ask? Well we know that New York continues to produce a tremendous number of applications, and we know students there continue to be passionate about science research. I think what has changed is not in New York, but in California and other states around the country that are challenging their students to pursue research, and are celebrating and supporting their efforts. We know that teachers like Amanda Alonzo at Lynbrook High School in San Jose are creating an exciting environment where student research is the cool thing to do. We know that Erika DeBenedictis , winner from NM of the 2010 Intel STS who is now studying at Caltech, is a role model for other aspiring scientists. We know that Intel’s education programs in California and Oregon and Arizona and our other site communities are making a difference. We are right there with the President on this one – we celebrate these science fair winners with all the glamour and excitement of a Super Bowl. There is no grander celebration at Intel than the Grand Awards Gala at the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS), nor more exciting than the Award Ceremony at Intel ISEF. When the semi-finalists and finalists for Intel STS are announced, we show up at their schools with confetti and cameras and big checks, and – with a little sneaky help from their parents and principals – surprise the whole school. We even manage to get them a personal visit with the President himself most years (barring the occasional unforeseen national crisis…). In fact, last night Amy Chyao, the winner of the 2010 Intel ISEF, was sitting with the First Lady at the State of the Union Address, and last year, Gabriela Farfan, a 2009 Intel Science Talent Search Finalist, was with her, too. So whether as a parent, or a volunteer, or an educator, think about ways that you can help make sure that our budding scientists are celebrated with just as much enthusiasm and excitement as are our football players and media celebrities. Frankly, they are a lot more likely to change the world, start a new industry, or be the next generation of Intel Rock Stars. Oh – and if you’re in Washington, DC, in March, stop by to check out just what these “kids” can do – I can promise you, it will knock your socks off!
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