From March 11th through 16th, 40 top high school scientists have come together in Washington D.C. for the annual Intel Science Talent Search competition (Intel STS). The Intel Science Talent Search is essentially the country’s biggest science research competition which offers the opportunities for high school seniors to present their research to a group of distinguished scientists. These students are competing for $630,000 in awards with the top winner receiving $100,000 from the Intel Foundation.
We headed to D.C. this Sunday to meet with these young geniuses and to learn about their projects and what inspires them. Just like during our experience covering ISEF last May, at times we were left scratching our heads and feeling a little lost, but ultimately we left the event blown away by the intelligence of these young men and women. Overall these kids impressed and wowed us with their originality, dedication, and thorough work. Read on for a sampling of some of the finalists and their projects.
Project: Indoor Air Pollution: A Comparison of Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) Emissions from Paraffin and Soy Candles
It turns out that outdoor pollution isn’t the only kind of problematic pollution – indoor pollution is also a significant environmental issue. Otana decided to research the difference between paraffin candles, which are the most common type of candle used, VS soy candles. She did this in order to see which candle created less pollution in an indoor environment. Her research determined that paraffin candles can create an unhealthy amount of indoor pollution that exceeds the current outdoor air quality standard. Meanwhile, soy candles contribute less to indoor pollutions, and are ultimately healthier to use. Today Otana is now a volunteer for the American lung Association, and she plans on sharing her findings with the American Lung Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Frieda Fein – John Adams High School, South Bend, IN
Project: Investigations of Faunal Diets at Pokagon Village Site to Determine
Farming Practices of the Pokagon Band Circa A.D. 1830
Frieda, who has a passion for archeology, decided to work on a project that would let her solve history’s puzzles through scientific research. Her investigation sought to clear up why the U.S. government allowed the Potawatomie tribe (aka the people who where apart of the Pokagon Band) to stay settled in the Midwest, at a time when the government was aggressively pushing Native Americans out of their lands. During her research she identified isotopes in bones of animals raised by the tribe. High isotopes helped her to determine that amise was used to feed the tribe’s animals. Feeding animals amise was actually an European-American lifestyle, so this discovery indicated that the tribe must have been farming the land and operating with some kind of European-American lifestyle. Thus, the U.S. government allowed them to remain on the land because they must have believed that the tribe was ultimately good for the land’s development. Frieda’s research here will ultimately help the Potawatomie tribe understand their ancestors more.
David Liu – Lynbrook High School, San Jose, CA
Project: Semantic Image Retrieval and Interactive Exploration of Large Image Collections
Watch out Google, this kid has a potential Goggles competitor on his hands. David Liu has created a system that is able to understand and recognize the content of images. This kind of tech can potentially be used in an image based search engine, the likes of Google Goggles. However, David has so far used the technology alongside NASA Ames researchers to help recognize oil pipeline threats in aerial images. That means that the algorithm that he has developed can be used to spot an oil pipeline, effectively averting a threat before it can cause damage. Furthermore, his technology can also be used for correlating medical images with databases of known disorders.
Angela Yeung – Davis Senior High School, Davis, CA
Project: Distributed Learning for Dynamic Spectrum Sharing in Cognitive Radio
Networks: A Decision Theoretic Approach
There was a lot of hoopla over the FCC’s recent sale of the 700mhz spectrum because there isn’t much room left in wireless spectrum, or at least that is what they want you to think. Angela Yeung conducted cognitive radio research to address issues ranging from “losing cell phone signals to the interoperability of radio communications between different specialized forces in the military. ” In the end, she discovered that the wireless spectrum isn’t as crowded as you might think, but the real problem lies in the fact that the wireless spectrum is being poorly managed. As a result she is working on ways to identify and predict when different areas of the wireless spectrum aren’t so busy, so that people could potentially use these wireless frequencies when they become available. This is a very important breakthrough, considering that this study might eventually make it possible for average people to actually use the wireless spectrum more so than it is right now.
Sunanda Sharma – Shrewsbury High School, Shrewsbury, MA
Project: Modification of Developing and Mature Brain Circuits in an Autism Model
Sunanda Sharma decided to research Autism, which is a very commonly misunderstood disorder. She concluded that in order for autism to be properly studied by scientists, they must also understand interaction between genetics and the social environment of someone with autism.
Erika Aiden DeBenedictis – Albuquerque Academy, New Mexico
Project: Traveling the Interplanetary Superhighway: An Autonomous Spacecraft Navigation System
Until now, getting around the solar system has required a ton of energy for spacecrafts. But Erika has come up with a much more fuel efficient way for spacecrafts to navigate the galaxy, not to mention that it can also be a lot faster. Her Interplanetary Superhighway concept claims that the gravity an movement of planets can be used to move spacecraft through a solar system, kind of like the way a ship makes it’s way across the ocean using the power of wind on its sails. Erika has even developed software which can be used as a navigation system for spacecrafts to better navigate these kinds of paths.
Nicholas Mycroft Christensen – Wetumpka High School, Alabama
Project: Do You ‘ear Wha’I'ear?: Lowering Voice Frequencies in Real Time to Revolutionize Hearing Assistance Technology
Nick himself has been impacted by hearing loss, so he set out to find a way to improve hearing assistance devices. He developed a real time algorithm that not only can improve the performance of these devices, but also other devices like cellphones, TVs and radios.
For more images from Public Day at Intel Science Talent Search 2010, check out Chip Chicklets.