I hear students burst into this loud,screaming, mob like noises, that remind me of a Justin Bieber sighting. I stop dead in my tracks, clutch my purse, turn around as I am sure a Denzel Washington has entered the building or maybe even a Jennifer Lopez. The young men were just as excited as the young women so I knew it was going to be someone extremely popular. The Intel International Science and Engineering(Intel ISEF) finalists are beyond excitement, jumping over their projects and each other to make eye contact with this famous person. “Who is it?, I think quietly to myself?” I finally catch a glimpse through the crowded hall of finalists and it’s Bill Nye, the science guy. Wow, I think to myself. “Our Rock Stars aren’t your Rock stars!”
I had the coolest opportunity today and participated in the public day of the Intel ISEF. It consisted of 1500 finalists that were selected from a pool of 7 Million total students. Smart seems rather lame as a description of the caliber of these kids. They love science and are able to speak to the most complicated projects with ease. Most importantly, the smiles indicate they were having a lot of fun. And I did too. I felt like a kid at Christmas time in a store full of toys. They certainly put my electrical engineering degree to the test and I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was WAY over my head on many projects. Words like “tranfersomes,” and “acetylcholinesterase” were being discussed as if we were talking about video games. In fact, one kid when asked about how he started into software development explained that he grew tired of doing the simple video tasks and decided to develop software to manage the rote tasks so he could spend more time on the “good stuff.”
I cannot possibly capture all I saw, heard or connected too but the quick synopsis is that cancer, inflammation, diabetes, contaminated water and other global challenges should be fearful of these Intel ISEF participants. These finalists are focused and they are coming after these global issues with some serious passion and vengeance. What I saw in this group of innovators is their willingness to act. They were connected to a problem, often through a family member challenge, and their curiosity set them on a path to find a cure. Take Kishore of Spring, Texas; he noticed that using a ginger root aided with his grandfather’s inflammation in his knee. That noticing sent him down a path of researching the bioavailability of a Gingerol 6(a natural alternative) for treating inflammatory diseases. Who thinks about this stuff in high school? Intel ISEF finalists.
Here are just a few drive by factoids shared by the Intel ISEF finalists on the exhibit floor:
• This year, it is expected that 569,490 people will die from cancer. A finalist is researching and planning to develop an alternative to chemotherapy that does not have cellular resistance.
• In response to Haiti earthquake, two finalists decided a kit should be developed that can be deployed to disaster areas to quickly test for contaminated water. They developed a $30 fishy detector kit that will let you know if it’s safe to drink the water.
• Oysters are functionally extinct since 85% of their reefs have been destroyed through disease or over-harvesting. I need an APB(all points bulletin) sent to my Myrtle Beach family on this factoid. A finalist is researching a solution.
• If you want to play the drum, there is no need to lug around heavy equipment. Grab you a cool pair of a finalists’ drum pants!
Intel ISEF finalists inspire. If you ever need a dose of inspiration, be sure to get the Intel ISEF schedule. The competition is annually around Mother’s Day weekend and there is always a public day. The Intel ISEF is the premier global science competition for students in grades 9-12 and is sponsored by the Intel Foundation in partnership with Society and Science for the Public.
Stay tuned for the announcement of the winners later today!